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Evaluating Local Policies for Cardiovascular and Respiratory Disease Impact

Using Spatio-Temporal Specificity of Emission Reduction Policies to Evaluate Effects on Air Quality and Health

People crossing major city street


As the patchwork of health-related policies in our cities becomes increasingly complex, a complete understanding of the effectiveness of each individual policy is crucial to deciding which strategies to maintain and consider for use in other cities. The project began by classifying all legislation in New York City during the Bloomberg administration for its relevance to key risk factors: outdoor air pollution, tobacco use, physical inactivity, and poor nutrition.  For other work in policy surveillance at UHC across multiple cities, see

The research is now focusing in greater depth on the air pollution legislation, looking to understand which parts of the city were expected to have the greatest benefit from changes to the taxi fleet, the public bus fleet, and residential heating oil, and whether these expectations were met.


Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, The Neurological Institute of New York, New York Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and WE ACT.

Research Methods

Urban air pollution related to traffic emissions has been consistently linked to adverse health outcomes, including childhood asthma hospitalizations. 

As an example of our work to examine upstream determinants of air pollution exposures, we investigated changes to the taxi fleet. Spatial specificity of emission reduction efforts in New York City (NYC) from 2002-2014 was used to lay a foundation for characterizing the distinct impacts of taxi fleet and bus fleet changes on urban air quality and health, along with other actions to reduce emissions such as changes to heating oil.


Data was obtained from online repositories, direct contact with relevant organizations, and Freedom of Information Act requests. Mapping and statistical analyses were used to quantify the relative contributions of different municipal actions to improvements in air quality.


The team continues to collaborate and is focused on associations between air pollution reductions and health outcomes, including childhood asthma hospitalizations.

Research Results

The following is a list of publications:


Ong, P., Lovasi, G., Madsen, A., Van Wye, G., Demmer, R.T. Evaluating the effectiveness of New York City health policy initiatives on cardiovascular disease mortality reduction, 1990-2011. American Journal of Epidemiology, 2017. 186(5): p. 555-63. 


Rhodes-Bratton, B., Fingerhut, L., Demmer, R., Colgrove, J., Wang, Y.C., Lovasi, G. Cataloging the Bloomberg Era: New York City Legislation Relevant to Cardiovascular Risk Factors. Cities & Health, 2018. 1(2): p. 125-138.


Trinh, P., Jung, T.H., Keene, D., Demmer, R., Perzanowski, M., Lovasi, G. Temporal and spatial associations between influenza and asthma hospitalizations in New York City from 2002-2012: A longitudinal ecological study. BMJ Open, 2018. 8(9): e020362. 


Fry, D., Kiomourtzoglou, M.A., Treat, C.A., Burke, K., Evans, D., Tabb, L.P., Carrion, D., Perera, F.P., Lovasi, G.S. Development and validation of a method to quantify benefits of clean-air taxi legislation.  Journal of exposure science & environmental epidemiology, 2019. 30: 629–640. 


Funding is from the New York Community Trust; NIEHS/EPA P50 (as part of the Community Outreach and Translation Core).