100 Ways: Health


Published May 13, 2019 1:34 PM

Making the Grade

Rating Restaurants

Jonathan Fielding.

An "A" grade sign posted at a restaurant is reassuring, showing that the establishment has passed rigorous health and safety inspections. Those grades have roots at UCLA.

In 1998, Jonathan Fielding became the founding director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (DPH), which tackles foodborne illness, infectious disease outbreaks, toxic exposures, natural and man-made disasters, and more. Fielding, a UCLA professor of pediatrics and of health policy and management and co-director of the UCLA Center for Healthier Children, Families and Communities, is an expert in these areas.

When an investigative report revealed serious health and safety code violations in L.A. restaurants, DPH was charged with informing the public and correcting problems. In response, DPH established the rating system, dropping the percentage of low-grade restaurants from 15 percent to 1.5 percent and decreasing the incidence of foodborne illnesses in L.A. County. Today, the grading system is used statewide and in other states, as well.

Looking Out for Our Neighbors

Climate Change and Local Wildlife

How does the 101 Freeway affect the city’s wild animal population? UCLA researchers published a study about this in the journal Conservation Biology. The study, which focused on seven species chosen as representative of local wildlife, found a large amount of genetic diversity within groups separated by the freeway.

“To better comprehend how wildlife will respond to climate change, it is important to look at ecosystems as a whole in addition to zeroing in on specific species,” says Tom Smith, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and director of the Center for Tropical Research.

A juvenile western skink, one of seven animals mapped in the UCLA study of how the 101 Freeway affects population diversity.

In addition to gathering genetic information, the researchers cross-referenced the genetic findings with environmental variables — temperature, elevation and vegetation — to look for patterns. The study also identifies areas with the largest number of species and most genetic diversity within individual species.

By focusing on a small, environmentally diverse area of the Santa Monica Mountains, one can discover 70 to 80 percent of the genetic variation in a species native to that area, says Assistant Adjunct Professor Ryan Harrigan, a co-author of the study.

Knowing how animals respond to changes in temperature or elevation tells scientists how the species could react to climate change. If our planet warms two degrees Celsius by the end of this century, as many climate scientists predict, wildlife will have limited options, Harrigan says.

In response to climate change, many animals may move up the mountains to cooler territory but find that there’s nowhere to go at the top. This may result in some species becoming extinct, while others may adapt to the new reality.