Research Expertise & Professional Interests
Dr. Brooks is also a member of the Epidemiology Doctoral Committee and the instructor for a doctoral-level seminar in issues of study design. Prior to joining the faculty at BUSPH, Dr. Brooks spent more than 10 years at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, first as Research Director for the Occupational Health Surveillance Program and then as Director of the Health Survey Program, where he directed all aspects of the Massachusetts Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS).
Dr. Brooks has two primary areas of research focus:
(1) He leads an international team of researchers investigating the causes of an epidemic of chronic kidney disease of undetermined etiology (CKDu) in Central America that primarily affects poorer male manual laborers and is responsible for an estimated 20,000 deaths over the past two decades (http://www.bu.edu/sph/research/research-landing-page/research-group-for-the-study-of-chronic-kidney-disease-in-central-america/). The research is informed by a lifecourse approach, focusing on occupational risks, early life exposures, and genetic susceptibility that might potentiate environmental exposures. Suspected environmental factors under investigation include heat stress and dehydration, agrichemicals, infectious agents, metals, and medications with potential for kidney toxicity. Dr. Brooks also is co-chair of the Executive Board of the Consortium on the Epidemic of Nephropathy in Central America and Mexico (CENCAM), an organization of researchers, clinicians, and public health professionals from more than a dozen countries whose mission is to contribute to knowledge generation and to promote and facilitate activities and policies to reduce CKDu occurrence in the affected countries.
(2) A second area of research focuses on increasing cessation among low-income smokers, particularly residents of public housing. Dr. Brooks was principal investigator of a grant from the National Cancer Institute to conduct a group-randomized trial in Boston public housing developments to test whether use of specialized resident community health advocates could increase use of smoking cessation treatments and subsequent quit rates among smokers living in public housing. Results of the study indicated that this may be an effective strategy. Currently, his work in this area focuses particularly on the federal rule mandating smoke-free policies in public housing authorities throughout the country. Ongoing studies include (i) an intervention funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to increase resident support and compliance with a smoke-free policy in a privately managed affordable housing setting and (ii) a study co-funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and American Cancer Society to learn from the experiences of housing authorities that have already voluntarily adopted smoke-free policies in order to assist the large number of authorities who will be adopting policies as a result of the federal rule.