Scalable combinatorial tools for health disparities research

Michael A. Langston, Robert S. Levine, Barbara J. Kilbourne, Gary L. Rogers, Anne D. Kershenbaum, Suzanne H. Baktash, Steven S. Coughlin, Arnold M. Saxton, Vincent K. Agboto, Darryl B. Hood, Maureen Y. Litchveld, Tonny J. Oyana, Patricia Matthews-Juarez, Paul D. Juarez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Despite staggering investments made in unraveling the human genome, current estimates suggest that as much as 90% of the variance in cancer and chronic diseases can be attributed to factors outside an individual’s genetic endowment, particularly to environmental exposures experienced across his or her life course. New analytical approaches are clearly required as investigators turn to complicated systems theory and ecological, place-based and life-history perspectives in order to understand more clearly the relationships between social determinants, environmental exposures and health disparities. While traditional data analysis techniques remain foundational to health disparities research, they are easily overwhelmed by the ever-increasing size and heterogeneity of available data needed to illuminate latent gene x environment interactions. This has prompted the adaptation and application of scalable combinatorial methods, many from genome science research, to the study of population health. Most of these powerful tools are algorithmically sophisticated, highly automated and mathematically abstract. Their utility motivates the main theme of this paper, which is to describe real applications of innovative transdisciplinary models and analyses in an effort to help move the research community closer toward identifying the causal mechanisms and associated environmental contexts underlying health disparities. The public health exposome is used as a contemporary focus for addressing the complex nature of this subject.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10419-10443
Number of pages25
JournalInternational journal of environmental research and public health
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 10 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Combinatorial algorithms
  • Data science
  • Graph theoretical techniques
  • Health disparities research
  • Heterogeneous data analysis
  • High performance computing
  • Public health exposome
  • Relevance networks
  • Scalable computation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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