Return to NIEHS | Current Issue
Increase text size Decrease text size

Environmental Justice Grantees Meet in Boston

By Eddy Ball
January 2008

Environmental Justice and Community-Based Participatory Research programs promote diversity and grass-roots involvement.
Environmental Justice and Community-Based Participatory Research programs promote diversity and grass-roots involvement.

It may have been cold and overcast in Boston during the December 10 - 12 gathering of grantees in the NIEHS Environmental Justice Research Program, but the atmosphere indoors was anything but gloomy. Grantees arriving at this year's Annual Grantee Meeting at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel were upbeat about their future prospects and looked forward to interacting with their fellow grantees.

Chaired by NIEHS Program Analyst Liam O'Fallon, the meeting began with a full day of tours on December 10 to grantee projects in the Boston Area. Attendees chose between two options, Worchester and Dudley Square or Sommerville and the Silent Spring Institute. The day concluded with an evening performance by activist Wanna Williams-Wright and the theatre group Ponto de Partida-USA.

On December 11, NIEHS Acting Director Sam Wilson, M.D., opened the formal portion of the meeting with a reassurance of the Institute's commitment to environmental public health and programs that promote partnerships. "I want to state categorically that prevention is a priority of mine," he declared. "Prevention is a cornerstone of NIH's research strategy."

O'Fallon's enthusiasm and optimism were infectious. Following the meeting, one participant writing in the
O'Fallon's enthusiasm and optimism were infectious. Following the meeting, one participant writing in the "Health for All" blog described NIEHS as "one of the most hopeful government agencies I've come across." (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

"We intend to support our Environmental Justice (EJ) and Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR) (http://www.niehs.nih.gov/research/supported/programs/justice/)programs," Wilson said, "and it is my intent that NIEHS will continue to support them to the extent that our funding allows." Wilson also expressed his conviction "that community-based approaches have an important role to play in the entire environmental health research enterprise."

During plenary sessions, workshops and an evening poster session, grantees devoted their time to learning from one another and sharing their accomplishments in environmental sciences, especially with regard to exposure monitoring, capacity building, and the development of cooperatives to increase awareness of environmental and occupational health. Participants also discussed larger trends in CBPR and EJ, planned for the future, and considered ways in which they could build upon their successes over the past years.

In a session exploring ways to continue their work beyond the funding period, grantees who recently completed four years of NIEHS support as part of the EJ Program presented project highlights and shared strategies for sustaining their activities. These projects included the Work Environment Justice Partnership for Brazilian Immigrants in Massachusetts, Communities Organized against Asthma and Lead (COAL)(http://www.niehs.nih.gov/research/supported/programs/justice/grantees/galveston.cfm), and the Healthy Homes and Community for High Point Families (http://www.niehs.nih.gov/research/supported/programs/justice/grantees/nhi.cfm).

Meeting organizers took advantage of the December 11 lunch break and a Tuesday afternoon session to discuss the recently released Request for Information (RFI) on the Partnerships for Environmental Public Health (http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-ES-08-002.html) Exit NIEHS program that the NIEHS is developing. Meeting participants shared their ideas and engaged in rich dialogue about future opportunities in environmental public health.

Wilson describes NIEHS as an umbrella - with ample room for the kind of basic bench research he performs so admirably in his own lab, as well as the participatory and activist research conducted by grantees at the Boston meeting.
Wilson describes NIEHS as an umbrella - with ample room for the kind of basic bench research he performs so admirably in his own lab, as well as the participatory and activist research conducted by grantees at the Boston meeting. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

As the meeting came to a close December 12, an exhausted O'Fallon evaluated the busy three days in Boston. "This was an excellent meeting," he said. "These meetings are instrumental in promoting a positive environment in which our grantees can learn from one another and explore new collaborations with colleagues from around the country."

According to O'Fallon, the interactions among attendees at the meeting and the quality of their presentations show how far the program has come since it was established in 1994. "It is exciting to see such productive interactions and collaborative projects among community groups, researchers and healthcare providers," he added. "These projects demonstrate the value of developing partnerships to address the impact of environmental exposures on public health."

NIEHS Community-Based Research and Environmental Justice program grants are administered by the Susceptibility and Population Health Branch (SPHB) (http://www.niehs.nih.gov/research/supported/dert/sphb/index.cfm) under the direction of Branch Chief Gwen Collman, Ph.D. The meeting was hosted by the Silent Spring Institute(http://www.niehs.nih.gov/research/supported/programs/justice/grantees/ssi.cfm).


"Former Postdoc Awarded..." - previous story Previous story     Next story next story - "Bucher Announces..."
January 2008 Cover Page

Back to top Back to top