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Your Environment. Your Health.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Community Health & Environmental Reawakening

Steve Wing

Project Description:

The long-term objective of Community Health and Environmental Reawakening (CHER) is to improve environmental health in the rural South by supporting grassroots leadership and community empowerment. Isolated rural areas of the South have high levels of poverty and unemployment. Polluting industries may be attracted to these areas because of the decline in family farming, low land prices, low wages, and lack of political influence. This project seeks to make a long-term impact on unjust patterns of environmental contamination by facilitating technical and political capacities of rural African-Americans to be partners in research, to engage in community education, and to organize around environmental health issues. The project is centered on a strong grassroots community organization that was founded in 1978, the Concerned Citizens of Tillery (CCT), in Halifax County, North Carolina (NC). In 2000, the population of Halifax Co. was 52.6% African-American, 33.7% of whom live in poverty; CCT's 300 active local membership is 99% African-American. In 1987, CCT organized the Area Wide Health Committee (AWHC) to provide medical care to predominantly African-American communities in partnership with medical providers from East Carolina Medical School. CHER brings together CCT, AWHC, and environmental health scientists from the University of North Carolina (UNC) School of Public Health to, 


  1. expand environmental health knowledge of eastern NC citizens and health professionals, 
  2. increase local participation in prevention and remediation of environmental health problems, 
  3. provide education and outreach to environmental justice groups throughout NC, 
  4. increase the capacity of medical care providers to respond to environmental health problems of rural African-Americans, and 
  5. offer practice-based learning in rural environmental health and environmental justice issues to students in public health, medicine and allied health sciences. 


These aims are being accomplished through collaboration of the partner organizations in education, outreach and networking; the Tillery People's Clinic; and a graduate-level semester-long course, Community-driven Epidemiology and Environmental Justice.


  • Gary R. Grant
    Executive Director
    Concerned Citizens of Tillery
  • Kathy Knight
    Area Wide Health Committee
  • Beth Velde
    Associate Professor
    East Carolina University
  • Peggy Whittman
    Associate Professor
    East Carolina University

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