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Extramural Update

October 2008

public health

Partnerships for Environmental Public Health Program Takes Shape

With concept clearance approval by the NIEHS National Advisory Environmental Health Sciences Council on September 9 (see related story), a Division of Extramural Research and Training (DERT) workgroup prepares to implement the Partnerships for Environmental Public Health (PEPH) Program. (http://www.niehs.nih.gov/research/supported/dert/sphb/programs/peph/) The program is an important step as NIEHS establishes a sustainable commitment to the environmental public health community.

The PEPH Program will provide a structure to coordinate and support a variety of research and dissemination activities to bring scientists, community members, educators, health care providers, public health officials and policy makers together in the shared goal of advancing the impact of science-based inquiries of environmental health threats of concern to communities on the local, regional and national levels. Initiatives under the umbrella of PEPH will be designed to provide grant support in five major categories - research, communication and dissemination, training and education, evaluation and coordination.

During the past year, DERT gathered and analyzed information from the extramural community to develop the next phase of the NIEHS programs in environmental public health. The DERT workgroup released a Request for Information in October, 2007 and received 120 responses from interested parties, which are available in executive summary on the PEPH website. (http://www.niehs.nih.gov/research/supported/dert/sphb/programs/peph/)

In June, 2008, the workgroup convened a workshop of thought leaders from the fields of public health, environmental justice, community-based research, communication and advocacy to help develop the framework for a new program. The DERT workgroup also announced and awarded supplements to 17 existing grants to continue work in this area while a coordinated, ten-year program is established.

A hallmark of this program is that communities will be actively engaged in all stages of the research, dissemination and evaluation. Emphasis will be placed on robust research to investigate linkages between exposure and disease, as well as research and evaluation to improve the theories, methods and implementation strategies for working with communities to address their environmental health concerns. The program will emphasize both scientific advances and development of practical materials for use in communities, with a focus on translating research findings into tools, materials and resources that can be used by a variety of audiences to prevent, reduce, or eliminate adverse health outcomes caused by environmental exposures.

The PEPH program has set four major goals:

  1. Strategically coordinate and integrate the various new and existing initiatives that involve communities and scientists working together on contemporary issues in environmental public health research.
  2. Develop and evaluate strategies to communicate environmental public health messages to a diversity of audiences.
  3. Create and provide materials to increase awareness and literacy about environmental health risks.
  4. Evaluate program contributions to the advancement of environmental public health.

NIEHS intends to provide multiple ways for researchers and communities to obtain support for innovative and creative activities to protect the health of groups that are disadvantaged by exposure to occupational or environmental hazards. As part of this strategy, NIEHS will work in coordination and partnership with NIH and federal partners. By adding training and career development in environmental public health and research in communication and dissemination strategies to translate environmental health research results to a wide variety of stakeholders, NIEHS will continue to provide strong support for increasing science and health literacy and promoting prevention strategies to protect human health.

For more information, contact: Mr. Liam O'Fallon at ofallon@niehs.nih.gov



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