According to University of Washington Department of Epidemiology (Epi) Acting Assistant Professor Stephen Mooney, the world around us can dictate our health. From pedestrian dangers to physical activity opportunities, our environment is related to our health outcomes. Mooney also conducts research at the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center on improving these outcomes.
1. What are your research focuses?
I’m really interested in how built and social infrastructure can either support or pose a barrier to healthy living. I’m also interested in what the Open Data world can and can’t tell us. This combination leads to a bunch of different kinds of projects: projects to measure the environment, often with secondary data, then projects to validate these measures, then projects that relate environment measures to health outcomes like physical activity or pedestrian injury, and so on. I’m also kind of a methods geek, in part because any good project leads to skepticism that anything we learn is actually true, which in turn leads to methods research.
2. Why did you become interested in this type of work?
Back in the 2000s, I lived on Capitol Hill and was a programmer at Microsoft. The reverse commute on 520 was awful at that time. At some point, possibly radicalized by the Iraq War, I started mostly taking the bus instead of mostly driving. It felt like my whole life improved dramatically – each day, I was getting in a short walk and seeing more daylight, all while not burning gas and not fuming at other drivers. I started proselytizing the bus commute, but quickly realized how unrealistic a choice the bus was for many people. That drew my interest to the intersection between infrastructure, behavioral choices, and quality of life.
3. What do you enjoy most about being at the UW?
Brilliant colleagues. Rain. Bike commuting. Brilliant students. Fantastic and kind staff. Good friends in Seattle.
4. What do you like to do outside of work?
I have two boys, currently ages 5 and 8, and a lot of my non-work life revolves around them and their activities. I also play guitar in a rock and roll band called No Refundz, which is exactly as talented as our name suggests.