McCormack Speaks

November 30, 2017
by McCormack Speaks

Tick Tock: Cardiovascular Health and Driving Behavior in Older Adults

Tick Tock: Cardiovascular Health and Driving Behavior in Older Adults

 by Danielle Waldron, Gerontology PhD student

image of hands on a car's steering wheelWhile my primary research interests include health and social policy for persons aging with intellectual and developmental disabilities, I am widening my scope of study to other interesting areas in the field of gerontology.

This year I presented my research on elder driving and cardiovascular health at the Gerontology Society of America Conference (GSA) in New Orleans – my first GSA pressentation. After reading about driving accidents involving older adults and heart attacks in local newspapers, I decided to look deeper into the issue using data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) Core 2012.  The HRS surveys an estimated 20,000 community-dwelling Americans (age 50 years or older), and reports on demographics, physical health conditions, driving status, work status, and other information (Karp, 2007).

My research team and I analyzed relationships between driving and four cardiovascular conditions: heart attack, heart failure, angina, and abnormal heart rhythm. In our analyses, we controlled for levels of physical activity (mild, moderate, and vigorous) and other demographic covariates. Ultimately, we found that the odds of a person with heart failure maintaining the ability to drive is decreased by 38.3% (OR=0.617) in persons age 65 years and older. Heart failure was the only significant cardiovascular condition found to be associated with driving cessation. Since people with heart failure experience poor flow of blood and oxygen to the brain and other body parts (American Heart Association, 2016), we believe such oxygen deficits may inhibit people with heart failure from being physically and/or cognitively able to operate vehicles.

However, it is important to note that due to the cross-sectional nature of this project, we are unable to establish causation in this research. In addition, this research indicates that people who participated in vigorous activity, such as running, swimming, or jogging, at least once a week, had a 1.96 times greater odds of driving, on average, after controlling for cardiovascular health and all other variables. This demonstrates the importance of physical activity in relation to heart health and driving.


Presentation Information

Waldron, D., Lee, C.M., Evans, M., Kittle, K., Li, Y., Dowdie, B., & Dugan, E. (2016).  Cardiovascular Health and Driving Cessation: Findings from the Health and Retirement Study. Gerontological Society of America, New Orleans, Louisiana.

November 29, 2017
by McCormack Speaks

McCormack Graduate School Hosts Conference on School Discipline

headshot of Professor Mark R. WarrenWhat are the impacts of school suspension? To begin with, students suffer the obvious loss of instructional time. Research also indicates that suspensions lead to lower grade levels in reading, significantly increase the risk of dropping out of school, and are a leading indicator of future incarceration.Data also shows that black and disabled students are referred to the principal’s office more often than other students. In Massachusetts, the average Black/White gap was 24 more days of lost instruction, with 10 schools having a Black/White gap of over 100 days.

Professor of Public Policy and Public Affairs Mark R. Warren and his graduate assistant Andrew King hosted a day-long event, “Moving Beyond Chapter 222,” about the school discipline landscape in Massachusetts and possibilities for future investment in progressive discipline aimed to, in the end, close the racial discipline gap and ensure student success and higher graduation rates.


Continue Reading →

November 28, 2017
by McCormack Speaks

Former EPA Chief and Alumna Gina McCarthy ’76 Returns to Campus to Talk Climate Change

by Colleen Locke, University CommunicationsGina McCarthy Talks climate Change at the McCormack Graduate School

UMass Boston alumna and former EPA administrator Gina McCarthy ’76 returned to campus Monday for a panel looking at climate change challenges and opportunities.

The program was sponsored by the McCormack Graduate School, UMass Boston’s Sustainable Solutions Lab, and the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. McCormack Dean David W. Cash moderated the discussion with McCarthy and Greentown Labs Executive Director and CEO Emily Reichert.

McCarthy said climate change needs to be treated as a public health challenge — a fight  for clean air and safe water not in the distant future but now — and that the messaging needs to change. Continue reading.

November 27, 2017
by McCormack Speaks

Connecting Consumerism and Deforestation

by William Flagg, McCormack Graduate School student

deforestation Why have some of our goods become so disposable and so cheap? A bit of research on this would undoubtedly take us beyond the websites of the retail chains that provide our cheap and disposable dressers, nightstands, and bookshelves, and connect us to a  wealth of literature on a topic that is a bit heavier than retail — deforestation. We might learn that some products at retail chain stores that we depend on for our cheap furniture in the developed world were driving vast amounts of deforestation in places like Brazil, Indonesia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.  We would also learn that some other consumer items that have become a part of our everyday lives—like vegetable oils, soy, and beef– have similar impacts on forests.  Of course, this is something we do not think about when stepping into our local big box store to buy that cheap dresser or discounted entertainment center. But the impact of millions of people making these same purchases over time has certainly been felt in the forests that harbor the basic components of these materials.  These are only a couple of examples of the impacts of demand for consumer commodities in the global North that drive deforestation in the global South.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, “some 46-58 thousand square miles of forest are lost each year– equivalent to 48 football fields every minute.” [1] Much of this deforestation takes place in tropical rainforests in Latin America, Africa, and Asia.  Ahost of products in stores in the developed world have their origins in tropical rainforests, threatening these forested areas, and the rich variety of plant and animal species living in them. These forests are too important to lose, and provide a plethora of life- sustaining benefits to humans. According to the Rainforest Alliance, rainforests help stabilize global climate patterns; act as a natural filter for bodies of water that run through them, like the Amazon River; provide habitat for 80% of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity; are home to 25% of all modern medicines (and make up 70% of medicines that cure cancer!); and, play a huge role in the fight against climate change, as forests suck up vast amount of carbon dioxide from our atmosphere and store them [2].  Furthermore, regarding this latter point, forests add to climate change when they are cut down. It is estimated that deforestation is currently responsible for 20% of global carbon emissions.  Put simply, deforestation remains one of the most important crises of our time, with a host of direct implications in the fight against climate change, biodiversity loss, and social and economic justice.  What is less clear, however, is what continues to drive deforestation worldwide, and how do we stop it?

This problem might seem too big for any one of us to shape — and, in many ways it is. But that does not mean that our personal choices cannot have a positive impact. Every time we step into a store to buy groceries, furniture, coffee, and a whole host of other everyday items, we are connected to long and convoluted supply chains of materials harvested or mined from somewhere else; processed somewhere else; manufactured somewhere else; and, shipped from somewhere else. In many cases, these aforementioned steps all take place in different locations. In short, our purchases have a direct impact on the environment, and the people who live in those environments, in many places across the globe.

So the next time we make our way out to the grocery store, consider using our purchasing power to buy items not connected to deforestation in the developing world. One easy way to do this is to look for labels on products that certify that the product was sourced in a sustainable way. For example, for palm oil (which might be found in as much as half of all supermarket products!)[3], look for the patented Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) label pictured below. Another example is the Rainforest Alliance seal which certifies that products have been grown and harvested in an environmentally and socially conscious way. Roundatbale on Sustainable Pail Oil and Rainforest Alliance seals of approvalOf course, it’s important to remember that by simply buying products that are certified sustainable we are not going to eradicate deforestation– this issue is too large and complex to be tackled by consumerism.  But, our purchasing decisions do have consequential impacts on the world’s forests, and buying sustainable products is one way we can contribute to a healthier planet.


[1] Rainforest Alliance.  “9 Rainforest Facts Everyone Should Know.”

[2] World Wildlife Fund.  “Overview.”

[3] Rainforest Rescue.  “Palm oil– deforestation for everyday products.”


William Flagg, studies international relations at UMass Boston’s McCormack Graduate School.

November 21, 2017
by McCormack Speaks

Shift to Women on Boston City Council is Astounding

This blog originally appeared in the CommonWealth and is posted with permission of the authors.

by Ann Bookman, PhD and Christa Kelleher, PhD

women in political leadership political buttonThere’s been much buzz around Boston since this month’s election which resulted in the historic victories of two additional women of color to the Boston City Council. Councilors-elect Lydia Edwards and Kim Janey will join four incumbent women of color councilors in January, marking the first time in the city’s history that nearly half (48 percent) of the council will be comprised of women. The makeup of the City Council will now reflect the increasingly diverse composition of the city’s residents. History has indeed been made.

What does this watershed moment tell us about the journeys of women to the Boston City Council? Given research on women’s political leadership by UMass Boston’s Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy, we know just how hard it has been for women – and particularly for women from underrepresented communities – to achieve elective office. We have documented the challenges facing female candidates and the barriers that have kept women from running in the first place. Continue reading.


About the authors: Ann Bookman directs the Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy. Christa Kelleher is the center’s research and policy director.

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