Anna Oudin - May 2022
Anna Oudin, member of the Urban Arena steering group and one of the heads of the health and well-being unit.
Foto: Åsa Hansdotter
As a first question, it would be nice to know where you are from and what has been your path to get to where you are now?
I was born in Lund, not far from where we are sitting now. I grew up in Mid Sweden and I started to become interested in the environment very early. I was actually something like an activist, when I was 8 or 9. My friend and I planned to save the world. I felt very early that I wanted to work with something related to environmental issues and interested in medicine and wanted to become a doctor for a while. But then I ended up studying engineering and engineering physics. With that background I did not know what I could put my focus on after I graduated. I saw an ad for the position as a PhD student at Occupational and Environmental Medicine and when I read the description I felt like that was a dream! So I started to look into the health effects of air pollution and to focus on different socio-economic groups, like for example how environmental injustices are related to health. My thesis here in Lund was on stroke related to air pollution in Skåne. And we got interesting results related to socio-economic factors. Later I did my Post-doc in a research group in Umeå in the North of Sweden. It was great to work in a group, on a big European project, getting to know epidemiologists from all over Europe. Since most of my family and friends are here, I came back to Lund, to the department of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. My colleague and I started a research group together, where we focus on health impact assessment and air pollution epidemiology and translating our work to policies. It is a long and winding road, but it feels fulfilling.
Which department are you part of and how is it connected to the Urban Arena?
So my department is very diverse. We are part of the department of Laboratory Medicine, which is not at all what I do. My division is called Occupational and Environmental Medicine and also here we have a great variety of research fields.
What we do is to use register based data to study the health effects of air pollution and other environmental factors. So my research group is related to the Urban Arena and urban planning in general in the way that we try to translate different policy measures and different ways of planning the urban environment to the health effects they have on the population living there.
What is the Urban Arena for you? What do you think is unique about the Urban Arena?
I feel still quite new to the Urban Arena, so I am still learning. But what I have done so far is being part of the steering group meetings, listening a lot, to get a grip of what the Urban Arena is. I still feel that I am a beginner there and I wish to interact more. I hope the Urban Arena will help to reach out to other research groups, because there is so much going on already in university and it is hard to have an overview of what is happening. So that is mostly what I get from the Urban Arena, a connection and meeting point with other researchers and experts in the university.
Can you tell us about some of your current research?
We have sort of two research areas that are connected. One is about Epidemiological Studies, for example how much traffic noise impacts people living and working in that area. And the other one is related to the specific outcomes of those epidemiological studies. These outcomes can be very concrete such as if the levels of noise increase by this much, then it affects the population’s health this much. But these factors can be hard to translate into concrete outcomes for policy makers. So what we do is we translate the data into health impact assessments that say “If you would go with this plan for this new neighborhood, where you focus on densification, the population would be more exposed to air pollution, that would mean x percentage of increase in the number of cases of a premature death.” We did this research in an area in Malmö and we said if we replaced all the vehicle exhaust with, for example, electric vehicles or active transportation such as people cycling or walking, then we would gain this many lives every year and this many asthma cases would fall. Instead of just giving a relative risk or increase, we try to translate that into specific numbers and that can be directly translated also in economical costs.
So I guess the city is specific of interest to you and your research?
A lot of what we do is about urban exposures, such as traffic noise, air pollution, but also positive exposure such as green areas. One of my major resarch projects is related to wood smoke, which we maybe can find more outside the urban environment. But in general we mostly work with urban exposure and therefore the city is an interesting field of research. Both if the factors are harmful or helpful in the urban environment.
What are future challenges that you are interested in or emerging concepts and practices that you want to explore?
We have this dilemma, that we want to densify the city, but we have to work out the negative exposure that comes along with it. This is a quite complex problem to tackle. Another challenge is the electrification of vehicles. We know that it is very beneficial in many aspects, but we also know that it does not solve all problems of urban exposure. We sort of have to work towards a more transport efficient society. That is a big difficult question and our research group tries to be a small piece in this complex solving puzzle.
Maybe something a bit lighter, what is your favorite city and why?
Well, it is Paris! I also like many other cities, but there is only one candidate for my favorite. I do not know why specifically, but I love it for many reasons. I also like the path they are taking in improving their air quality, with many good examples and initiatives.
This would be the end of our short interview, but do you have any final thoughts?
I am curious about the future work with Urban Arena and I am glad to be a part of it. Even though I feel very new, I am excited to contribute and get to know everyone. From what I have seen so far, it seems very promising.
You can find Anna Oudin’s work on her Research Portal profile at Lund University: https://portal.research.lu.se/en/persons/anna-oudin and on the Occupational and Environmental Medicine department’s website.