The NIEHS sponsors Community Forums in cities throughout the United States on the general theme of environmental impacts on human health. The purpose of the community forums is to bring together members of the public who are interested in public health and the environment with NIEHS and other federal, state, and local government health officials; environmental health professionals; and disease and environmental advocacy groups. The forums provide a platform for an open dialogue to establish better coordination among the public and health professionals working on community exposures, industrial exposures, and other environmental issues. These forums also provide an opportunity to promote local and state media coverage of environmental health issues to broaden public understanding. Many of these Community Forums are organized in collaboration with NIEHS Environmental Health Sciences Centers and Superfund Centers at universities around the country who carry out cutting edge research to better understand the most pressing and key environmental problems of the nation, and how best to solve them.
John Schelp, M.P.A.
Special Assistant for Community Engagement and Outreach
Tel (919) 541-5723
Recent Community Forums
Seattle Waterways and Your Health
April 18, 2013
Portage Bay Cafe
Linda Birnbaum joined local researchers, government officials, and industry experts at a public forum on the health impacts and pollution in Seattle's working river, the Duwamish. Seven short, lively presentations were followed by questions and discussion. The public forum was an opportunity to hear various perspectives about the historical, environmental, cleanup, and health issues on the Duwamish.
The Port of Seattle, Boeing, and other industries are located on the river. The Duwamish Superfund site, a 5.5 mile stretch of the river that flows into Elliott Bay, is one of the most polluted places in the United States. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its proposed cleanup plan for the site on February 28, and this timely forum occurred during the 90-day public comment period on EPA's proposed plan.
The diverse, historic Georgetown and South Park neighborhoods along the Duwamish are home to a disproportionate number of low-income, Hispanic, and recent immigrant residents. The river is also part of the traditional fishing grounds of three Northwest tribes.
Although a Washington State, Department of Health advisory warned residents not to eat fish or shellfish from the Duwamish River, health officials know that many people still subsidize their diets with the contaminated fish. They do so because of economic necessity, a misunderstanding of the danger, or an acceptance of the health risks. (Source: Environmental Factor, NIEHS Monthly Newsletter)
Childhood Obesity & the Environment
November 29, 2012
NIEHS convened a panel of experts to tackle questions from the public on childhood obesity and related environmental factors. The unique, virtual event — the first of its kind at NIEHS to mix social media and Web broadcasting to reach a diverse national audience — attracted more than 600 viewers and sparked tweets to 1.5 million twitter users.
Read more about the forum: Live from NIEHS: Experts field obesity questions (http://www.niehs.nih.gov/news/newsletter/2012/12/spotlight-obesity/index.htm)
View the webcast of the event: Virtual Forum on Obesity and the Environment
Asthma in our Neighborhoods
March 28, 2012
Dorchester House, Boston, MA
With its most recent community engagement outreach initiative, NIEHS tackled the issues of asthma and air quality in communities within the city of Boston.
Led by NIEHS/NTP Director Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., a group of NIEHS-funded researchers and Institute representatives toured Boston-area neighborhoods by trolley the afternoon of March 28. Along their route, the group saw firsthand why residents are concerned about their urban environment, along with several examples of how private-public partnerships have helped improve health and quality of life there.
Read Entire Article: NIEHS energizes researchers and community in Boston (http://www.niehs.nih.gov/news/newsletter/2012/5/spotlight-boston/index.htm) (Source: Environmental Factor, NIEHS Monthly Newsletter)
Los Angeles Community Forum
Traffic Pollution and Your Health (255KB)
October 6, 2011
Progress Park Plaza, 15500 Downey Avenue, Paramount, CA
The nation's top environmental health official visited the Los Angeles/Long Beach harbor area to witness first-hand how communities are struggling with health issues related to pollution. Los Angeles has its share of health problems and we suspect many of them are environmentally related, said Linda Birnbaum, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Several times a year, Birnbaum visits communities many in low-income, minority areas where federal research dollars are spent to study pollutants and human health... Emissions from trucks, ships and other diesel-powered sources envelop the region, and scientists from USC have found connections to an array of health effects... Birnbaum visited Hudson School near the ports of LA and Long Beach to witness first-hand how communities struggle with air quality health issues. (Source: Environmental Health News)
New Orleans Community Forum
Community partnerships to solve environmental health problems
February 23, 2011
New Orleans, LA
NIEHS/NTP Director Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., and other representatives from the Institute engaged the New Orleans community during a visit to the city Feb. 23-24. The visit involved several meetings focused on local environmental health concerns and the NIEHS programs that address them including the Institute's multi-faceted response to the Gulf oil spill (GOS).
The visit began with a luncheon dialogue hosted by the Bayou Interfaith Shared Community Organizing followed by a tour of the lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans, hosted by NIEHS grantees at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. The NIEHS delegation also drove out to Terrebonne Parish where they listened to residents in the coastal town of Montegut.
Later, the NIEHS delegation attended an evening community forum Feb. 23, hosted by Mary Queen of Vietnam Community Development Corporation at Ba Mien Restaurant in New Orleans East. Birnbaum addressed more than 100 attendees as part of a panel of local, state and federal agency representatives.
Birnbaum described NIEHS programs launched in response to Hurricane Katrina and the GOS, Birnbaum noted that NIEHS grants in New Orleans totaled $4.6 million last year. She also praised collaboration among Gulf region scientists, community groups, and NIEHS, encouraging partners to offer NIEHS their input and share their grass-roots knowledge of their city and region.
"We want to hear what's going on," she explained. "See where we can build on the partnerships we have on the ground. That's what keeps us going. That's what helps drive our work in the community."
Birnbaum made a point of highlighting outstanding grantees, including Tulane University's Maureen Lichtveld, M.D. and Barry Dellinger, Ph.D., director of the Superfund Research Program at Louisiana State University (LSU).
As she did at each of the venues during the visit, Birnbaum emphasized interdisciplinary scientific research, interagency collaboration, and community engagement. "NIEHS hosted a series of community forums, stakeholder visits, webinars, and instructional meetings throughout the five-state Gulf region," she told her listeners, "in order to promote awareness, participation, and coordination for all of these programs among local residents, state and local health departments, regional universities and researchers, and federal agency partners."
During the evening forum, one attendee praised the NIEHS approach in the Gulf. "Thank you for the scientific focus of this study; it's critical," said Karen DeSalvo of the City of New Orleans Health Department.
The visit to New Orleans was part of a series of community forums Birnbaum began in 2009 when she began as director of NIEHS.
Louisville Community Forum
Social Determinants of Health
October 20, 2010
Hosted by University of Louisville
Harlem Community Forum
Healthy Homes & You
April 13, 2010
Harlem Stage Gatehouse, 150 Convent Avenue at West 135th Street, New York, New York 10031
Co-hosted by Columbia University and WEACT
Bay Area Community Forum
Breast Cancer and the Environment
November 18, 2009
NIEHS Director Linda Birnbaum headlined a rousing, and at times, emotional public forum convened at historic Fort Baker. Attendees were mostly members of a concerned community struggling with a disease Birnbaum labeled in her opening remarks as "our common enemy — an equal opportunity killer."
Introduced by Robert Hiatt, M.D., Ph.D., director of Population Sciences at the University of California, San Francisco Comprehensive Cancer Center, Birnbaum spoke of the "state of the science" of breast cancer research, and also joined a distinguished panel in initiating a frank and open discussion about community needs in ongoing breast cancer research.
Moderated by noted television reporter, Ysabel Duron, a breast cancer survivor and inductee into the National Association of Hispanic Journalists' Hall of Fame, the panel of speakers (221KB) featured leaders in various disciplines. Joining Birnbaum and Hiatt on the dais were Gwen Collman, Ph.D., interim director of the Division of Extramural Research and Training at NIEHS; Janice Barlow, M.S.N., executive director of Zero Breast Cancer; Rupali Das, M.D., chief of the Exposure Assessment Section in the Environmental Health Investigations Branch of the California Department of Public Heath; Peggy Reynolds, Ph.D., senior research scientist at the Northern California Cancer Center; and Jeanne Rizzo, R.N., president and CEO of the Breast Cancer Fund. The combined influence of these renowned experts shed light on different aspects of breast cancer from basic research to advocacy to education and prevention.
Public participation is always encouraged at these kinds of meetings and other forums. "It provides an opportunity for feedback," Barlow said. "It does change the direction of the research and the relevance to the community; plus, when [the community is] involved from the beginning, it has an influence on the questions that are being asked." Birnbaum added, "We need input from communities in setting science agenda and in fostering positive partnerships. Together with my Institute's partners and grantees, we will solidify our coalition in the national effort to keep the science moving forward."
Birnbaum's closing comments summarized the discussion with partners, grantees, community leaders and advocates. "I look forward to the day when I can stand here with all of our partners to say, 'We did it. We know how it happens, and we can stop it.' That day will come. Until then, we will continue the hard work." In borrowing a familiar concept, she added, "Knowledge is power," a simple but powerful adage that in the context of cancer and disease prevention takes on deliberate new meaning.
Wisconsin Town Meeting
Environmental Health in Milwaukee
October 1, 2009
At the Milwaukee Town Meeting, Linda Birnbaum set the stage for a panel discussion by environmental public health specialists and city and regional officials. Birnbaum began her presentation with impressions from the afternoon trolley tour of the city — recounting the neighborhoods, gardens and river valley industrial brownfield sites she saw that day to emphasize the interconnectedness of the environment with public health and quality of life.
In her talk, Birnbaum highlighted "some of the outstanding work that NIEHS is supporting here at UW-Milwaukee," including basic research into the biological mechanisms of toxicity, detection of freshwater viral, bacterial and chemical contaminants, and the innovative outreach initiative, Healthy Latino Families and Schools. She described work at UWM as an example of the productive mix of "'small science' conducted by individual labs" with the work of "'big science' teams, which may be needed to answer some of the most intractable questions."
Moving to the national and international levels, Birnbaum surveyed the Institute's "larger research investment" in environmental health science, especially in research on the long-term health effects of early environmental exposures. She focused on new and renewed efforts to prevent disease through effective translation of research results into public health initiatives for improving children's health and development by preventing and treating chronic diseases.
Birnbaum's closing comments brought her back to the streets and neighborhoods of Milwaukee. "We look forward to supporting and working with scientists, health care providers and community members here in a great city on a great lake," she concluded, "to continue the success of this work, to better understand how the environment affects our health, and to develop effective prevention strategies to protect public health."
In closing, Birnbaum emphasized the pressing need for environmental health research. "You can't change your genes, but you can change your environment," she said. "The question is not, 'Can we afford to do this research?'" she said. "It's, 'Can we afford not to?'"
New Jersey Town Meeting
The Environment and Child Health
June 17, 2009
New Brunswick, N.J.
NIEHS scientists traveled to New Brunswick, N.J., in support of a June 17 Environmental and Child Health Town Meeting that included opening comments by NIEHS and National Toxicology Program (NTP) Director Linda Birnbaum ("/Rhythmyx/assembler/render?sys_contentid=1840&sys_revision=15&sys_variantid=639&sys_context=0&sys_authtype=0&sys_siteid=&sys_folderid=" sys_dependentvariantid="639" sys_dependentid="1840" inlinetype="rxhyperlink" rxinlineslot="103" sys_dependentid="1840" sys_siteid="" sys_folderid=""). The program was organized by the NIEHS Center for Environmental Exposures and Disease (CEED), which is housed in the Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute (EOHSI) at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ). The meeting was held at the Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum on the Rutgers campus in New Brunswick.
The event was an opportunity for Birnbaum, a native of New Jersey, to visit the city where NIEHS held its first town hall meeting in 1998. She told her audience at the evening session of the program that NIEHS is proud of its "long history of seeking involvement from a broad array of constituencies, including scientists, health care professionals and communities, in setting its research agenda and in fostering community-university partnerships to implement parts of that agenda."
"As we go forward, we want to make sure we are supporting the most important types of science, from 'small science' conducted by individual labs, which can be nimble and innovative, to 'big science' research teams, which may be needed to answer some of the most intractable questions," Birnbaum explained. "We will need to use a judicious mix of the best individual investigators, as well as the capabilities of research teams, to uncover all the complex ways in which environmental exposures work on biological systems with genetic and other host susceptibility mechanisms to affect health and disease."
An afternoon program of expert speakers opened with a welcome and introduction by UMDNJ Professor of Environmental and Occupational Medicine Helmut Zarbl, Ph.D. , who is the principal investigator on the university's NIEHS Center grant. Zarbl was followed by talks by UMDNJ investigators on findings of their NIEHS-funded research. The presenters included Michael Gochfeld, M.D., Ph.D., Jason Richardson, Ph.D., Michael Gallo, Ph.D., and Kathy Black, Ph.D. They spoke on such environmental health topics as heavy metal exposure, neurological disorders linked to pesticides, endocrine disruption and breast cancer and childhood asthma. A poster session and reception followed.
The evening program opened with Birnbaum's comments and a brief panel session of local middle school students involved in the CEED Community Outreach and Engagement Program, leading into the highlight of the evening — a 90-minute panel session with scientists and environmental justice and public health advocates.
NIEHS Epidemiology Branch Staff Scientist Jane Hoppin, Sc.D. ("/Rhythmyx/assembler/render?sys_contentid=34208&sys_revision=7&sys_variantid=1278&sys_context=0&sys_authtype=0&sys_siteid=&sys_folderid=" sys_dependentvariantid="1278" sys_dependentid="34208" inlinetype="rxhyperlink" rxinlineslot="103" sys_dependentid="34208" sys_siteid="" sys_folderid=""), was one of the five members of the evening panel discussion. Hoppin described her research as part of the Agricultural Health Study and how "what we learn from farmers and their families [can be] relevant to the U.S. population as the chemicals used in agriculture are used for residential and public health purposes as well."
Hoppin was joined by two UMDNJ professors — Daniel Wartenberg, Ph.D., and Howard Kipen, M.D., MPH— as well as Elyse Pivnick, vice president of Environmental and Community Health at the non-profit organization Isles in Trenton, N.J., and Ana Baptista, Ph.D., program manager of the Ironbound Community Corporation in Newark, N.J.
Previous Community Forums
|Your Home, Your Health||15 September 2008||Cincinnati, Ohio||University of Cincinnati|
|NIEHS and University of Cincinnati Host Environmental Health Town Hall Meeting |
The September 15 town hall meeting, "Your Home, Your Health, Your Voice," was about empowerment for individuals dealing with environmental exposures, and it was held appropriately in a monument to empowerment during extreme adversity, the Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. The meeting was jointly sponsored by NIEHS and the University of Cincinnati (UC) Center for Environmental Genetics (CEG). The event featured talks by experts at UC to help residents understand better the exposures they face each day and to offer practical ideas about how individuals can improve aspects of their health related to those exposures.
|More on Cincinnati Town Meeting(http://www.niehs.nih.gov/news/newsletter/2008/october/niehsanduniversity.cfm)|
|Asthma and the Air We Breath||13 July 2007||Charlotte, North Carolina||Friendship Missionary Baptist Church|
|Charlotte Town Meeting on Air Quality & Health Disparities: Public Invited to Help Set Research Agenda|
Friendship Missionary Baptist Church joined with the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and American Health Strategies in holding a town meeting in Charlotte to discuss ongoing and new ways to improve air quality among minority populations.
Research has consistently shown that African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans are more likely to develop chronic respiratory illnesses, including asthma when compared to white Americans. In addition, minorities are more likely to have poor outcomes associated with chronic respiratory illnesses. Differences in exposure to ozone and other pollutants may contribute to the disparities observed in disease prevalence and severity. It is time to clear the air. The Charlotte Town Meeting on Air Quality and Health Disparities was open to the public.
NIEHS director, Dr. David Schwartz, was the keynote speaker for the meeting. The NIEHS has a noted tradition of supporting research relevant to understanding health disparities and concerns of disadvantaged communities. Congressional staff, state and local representatives, researchers and leaders in the medical and public health community participated in the community forum.
|Environmental & Neurodevelopmental Disorders over the Lifespan||11 September 2005||Durham, North Carolina||International Neurotoxicolgy Conference|
|Town Meeting Agenda (175KB)|
|Growing Pains: Health & Community Impacts of Goods Movements and the Ports||25-26 February 2005||Long Beach, California||Southern California Environmental Health Sciences Center (USC & UCLA)|
|Impact of Urban Sprawl on Health in the Inner City||16 December 2004||Atlanta, Georgia||Crystal James Associates and Morehouse College|
|Morehouse Press Release (67KB)|
|Environmental Health Concerns in Hawaii||14 February 2004||Honolulu, Hawaii||University of Hawaii and University of Arkansas|
|Health Effects From Particulate Matter||3 June 2003||Children's Memorial Institute for Education & Research, Chicago||American Lung Association of Chicago|
|Airborne Threats to Human Health: The latest Findings on Fine Particle Pollution - What you and Your Family Need to Know About Air Pollution and How It Affects Your Health||21 April 2003||Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, New York||American Lung Association of New York State and State University of NY-Upstate Medical|
|Oceans and Human Health||27-28 February 2003||Maritime and Science Technology High School, Miami||University of Miami's Marine and Freshwater Biomedical Sciences Center Florida International University and the University of Miami|
|Voices of Diversity in the Environment and Health||7-8 January 2003||San Antonio Town Meeting||Air Force Institute for Environment, Safety and Occupational Health Risk Analysis, San Antonio Metropolitan Health District, University of Texas Health Science Center, Alamo Breast Cancer Foundation|
|Voices for a Healthy Community - Breast Cancer and the Environment||7-8 October 2002||Marin County and San Rafael, California||Marin Cancer Watch Organization, NIEHS Berkeley Center, Community Outreach and Engagement Program and University of California, Berkeley|
|Children's Environmental Health Public Forum, Paso Del Norte Heavy Metal Exposure||1-2 February 2002||Tomas Rivera Conference Center||University of Texas at El Paso|
|Voices for Healthy Environments, Healthy Communities, Healthy Jobs||7-8 December 2001||First Church of God, Los Angeles||Southern California Environmental Health Sciences Center (USC/UCLA)|
|Public Meeting on Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations: Airing on the Environmental Health Issues||16 November 2001||University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa||University of Iowa College of Public Health|
|Neighborhood Environmental Health||19-20 October 2001||Houston, Texas||Baylor College of Medicine|
|Public Meeting on Chromium VI||14 January 2001||Glendale City Hall, Glendale, California||City of Glendale|
|Voices for Healthy Environments, Healthy Communities||29-30 September 2000||Mt Zion Baptist Church, Seattle, WA||University of Washington|
|Health Disparities||9 July 1999||Chicago, Illinois||University of Illinois at Chicago|
|Health Disparities||26 May 1999||Baltimore, Maryland||Johns Hopkins University|
|Children's Environmental Health||19 February 1999||Berkeley, California||University of California at Berkeley|
|Environmental Health in Our Neighborhoods: Speaking Out About Pollution and Health||19-20 January 1999||Cincinnati, Ohio||University of Cincinnati|
|Air, Soil, and Water Pollution: Environmental Health Implications||17-18 November 1998||Nashville, Tennessee||Vanderbilt University|
|Urban Environmental Health||17-18 September 1998||Piscataway, NJ||UMDNJ and Rutgers|
More on NIEHS Community Forums (EHP article (http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/members/2003/6267/6267.html))