Partnerships for Environmental Public Health (PEPH)
PEPH is a network of scientists, community members, educators, healthcare providers, public health officials, and policymakers who share the goal of increasing the impact of environmental public health research at the local, regional, and national level. PEPH defines environmental public health as the science of conducting and translating research into action to address environmental exposures and health risks of concern to the public.
Grantees: for information on how to access the PEPH Resource Center, please contact Liam O'Fallon or Lynn Albert. You can also visit the NIEHS Research Partners page ( http://partners.niehs.nih.gov/ ) to access the Resource Center and other NIEHS shared datasets and applications.
BCERP Researchers Featured on NPR’s Fresh Air
In a recent episode of NPR’s Fresh Air, NIEHS-funded researchers Julianna Deardorff, Ph.D., and Louise Greenspan, M.D., discussed how the environment may be driving the trend of today’s girls starting puberty earlier than girls several decades ago. The causes and consequences of early puberty is the topic of their new book, The New Puberty , in which Deardorff and Greenspan draw upon their research and clinical experience to explain the shift toward earlier puberty and offer practical strategies families can use to help prevent and manage early puberty.
“The dramatic shift towards earlier puberty in the U.S. has important potential health consequences at the population level,” explained Deardorff, who is an associate professor of maternal and child health at the University of California (UC) Berkeley School of Public Health. “Girls’ early puberty has been linked to a number of deleterious outcomes across the life course, including elevated risk for emotional and behavioral problems during adolescence, as well as long-term health issues in adulthood, such as breast cancer and cardiovascular disease.”
During the Fresh Air interview , Deardorff and Greenspan described the trend of early puberty and some of the environmental chemicals that may alter the timing of girls’ puberty. According to Greenspan, a significant number of girls today are showing signs of early breast development at 7 years old. Just a generation ago, less than 5 percent of girls started puberty before the age of 8. Deardorff and Greenspan also discussed the potential role of environmental chemicals, including bisphenol A, flame retardants, and organophosphate pesticides, in shifting the timing of puberty. Explaining that the science is still out on the health effects of these chemicals in humans, they go on to encourage people to limit their exposure and find safer alternatives to certain chemicals found in personal care and household products.
“The reason we wrote this book was to provide the lay audience with the information we had learned as scientists and researchers. For example, few people understand the concept of the Precautionary Principle. In the book, we explain this idea and also provide the tools for parents to be able to make more educated decisions in order to reduce exposures, when possible,” explained Greenspan, an associate clinical professor at the UC San Francisco School of Medicine.
Deardorff and Greenspan are co-investigators in the Cohort of Young Girls’ Nutrition, Environment, and Transitions (CYGNET) study, a long-term study of puberty led by Lawrence Kushi, Sc.D. Co-funded by the NIEHS and the National Cancer Institute’s Breast Cancer and the Environment Research Program (BCERP), CYGNET followed 444 girls from the San Francisco Bay area since 2005, when the girls were 6 to 8 years old, to determine how environmental, genetic, lifestyle, and psychosocial factors may contribute to early puberty.
Listen to the full Fresh Air interview to hear Deardorff and Greenspan talk about the environmental, biological, and socioeconomic factors at play in the trend of early puberty. And be sure to check out their new book, The New Puberty !
PEPH at APHA Highlight: Roles of Gulf Coast Communities in Post-Disaster Research
The PEPH network had a strong presence at the annual American Public Health Association (APHA) meeting held last month in New Orleans, Louisiana. Several PEPH sessions and posters at APHA focused on communication in the aftermath of disasters. While all of the highlights from APHA are too numerous to share, take a moment to read about the community-academic partnership between the Mary Queen of Vietnam-Community Development Corporation (MQVN-CDC), Tulane University, and Washington State University that is working with a Vietnamese-American community to examine the potential health risks from shrimp consumption after the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill. In his presentation , MQVN-CDC project manager Daniel Nguyen emphasized the value of local knowledge and the importance of language in post-disaster research. He noted that including the community throughout the research process, as well as framing messages to meet the cultural needs of the Vietnamese community, is essential to successful outcomes.
To overcome survey fatigue and a general distrust of past research, the project team used a community-based participatory research approach, which began with a series of meetings with community organizers, shrimpers, and the larger Vietnamese community. These meetings helped determine the objective of the study and methods for harvesting shrimp and preparing the samples. Community input led to the researchers’ decision to focus on Gulf white shrimp – the primary type of seafood consumed in this community – and informed where they would collect the shrimp.
Not only did the researchers use community input to help design the study, they also empowered residents by adjusting how they communicated with the Vietnamese-American population. Initially, interactions between residents and researchers were translated from English into Vietnamese. However, the model soon shifted to where the discussions of study results were in Vietnamese and translated into English for the university researchers.
“Involving our community and community partners in the research process from the beginning and having meaningful, respectful discussions, face to face, about what our mutual partnership could do significantly affected and improved what our team accomplished,” said Jeff Wickliffe, Ph.D., co-principal investigator on the project. “Together we were much more capable of producing results that were relevant, understandable, and useful to everyone involved,” he explained.
Moving forward, the researchers will examine the long-term effects of the oil spill on seafood safety. They would also like to apply their community-based model to study other local environmental concerns, including soil, water, and air quality and agricultural contamination.
This project was supported in part by the NIEHS Deepwater Horizon Consortia. In addition to Nguyen and Wickliffe, Scott Frickel, Ph.D., from Washington State University at the time of the project and Tap Bui, MQVN, were also key contributors to the study. For more information, you can also see Tap Bui’s APHA presentation on the importance of community engagement in risk communication.
Educational Modules Help Pediatricians Connect Children's Health and Environment
Getting people to understand the link between their environment and health can be a challenge, especially at the doctor's office. The Community Outreach and Engagement Core (COEC) at the University of Cincinnati Center for Environmental Genetics (CEG) offers online Continuing Medical Education (CME) and Continuing Nursing Education (CNE) courses to help bridge the gap between pediatricians and nurses and environmental health issues. "Health care providers need to know about environmental triggers to disease and providing this information through CME/CNE is one viable option," said CEG COEC Director, Erin Haynes, Dr.P.H. The "Pediatric Environmental Health" module discusses concepts of pediatric environmental health and describes health effects, like atopic diseases, associated with common environmental exposures. A second module, "Environmental Management of Pediatric Asthma," provides a scientific overview of various environmental triggers of asthma in children and intervention strategies families can use to control environmental exposures at home. Teaching physicians and nurses how to ask environmental health history questions, such as "Where does your child spend his/her time?" or "What do the adults in the household do for a living?", often leads to answers that make a significant difference in the life of a child, said module author Nicholas Newman, D.O., M.S.
The PEPH Evaluation Metrics Manual provides examples of tangible metrics that PEPH grantees and program staff can use for both planning and evaluation. Example logic models are used as a means to develop evaluation metrics for cross-cutting PEPH themes such as Partnerships, Leveraging, Products and Dissemination, Education and Training and Capacity Building. PEPH grantees (including all project partners) are the primary target audience for this document.
PEPH Grantee Highlights
This month, we are pleased to share with you the stories of two of our PEPH colleagues, Anna Hoover and Paul English. Read a brief overview of their work below and visit the PEPH Grantee Highlights Web page to learn more about Hoover, English, and other PEPH colleagues.
- Anna Hoover, Ph.D.
Anna Hoover, Ph.D., is the Communications Director and Research Translation Core (RTC) co-lead for the University of Kentucky Superfund Research Center. Her role in the RTC often involves working with people from many university departments to ensure that everyone’s information needs – including those of community and government stakeholders – are met. She is also deputy director for the National Coordinating Center for Public Health Services and Systems Research, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation national program office. Read the Anna Hoover PEPH Grantee Highlight to learn more about her research translation efforts.
- Paul English, Ph.D.
Paul English, Ph.D., is an environmental epidemiologist who for the last ten years has served as principal investigator of the California Environmental Health Tracking Program (CEHTP), which takes a community-based approach to developing surveillance and biomonitoring systems for environmental hazards. English seeks to address problems related to both income disparities and health disparities, which he believes run parallel. Specifically, his work focuses on the public health impacts of climate change, environmental links to asthma, and the impacts of pesticides on birth outcomes. Read the Paul English PEPH Grantee Highlight to learn more about his community-based research projects.
PEPH in the Environmental Factor
The latest issue of the NIEHS Environmental Factor features several stories highlighting our PEPH colleagues. Take a moment to catch up with some of the latest projects, events, and activities happening in the PEPH network:
- APHA meeting inspires attendees with calls for a healthy nation . NIEHS staff and grantees were prominent among the more than 12,500 public health professionals who attended this year’s conference.
- Scientists and grantees enjoy high profile at EHC summit . Scientists supported by NIEHS were prominent on the program for the 7th annual Environmental Health Summit. The meeting was united by a theme of community engagement in the research process.
- NIEHS-funded study shows ADHD-air pollution link . Researchers from the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health have found that children born to mothers exposed to higher levels of air pollution during pregnancy had increased number and degree of ADHD symptoms.
- Big Picture, Small Talk presentation showcases GuLF STUDY . A presentation by NIEHS epidemiologist Richard Kwok, Ph.D., described efforts to monitor the potential human health effects of the BP oil spill.
PEPH Environmental Health Chat Podcast Series
For many people, wintertime brings a welcome respite from outdoor allergens like tree pollen. But spending more time inside has its own downsides, if you are sensitive to indoor allergens like dust, mold, and pets. Chronic exposure to indoor allergens can exacerbate health conditions such as asthma, especially among children. In our latest podcast, Controlling Allergens in Your Home, pediatric allergist Elizabeth Matsui, M.D., of the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center discusses common indoor allergens and offers tips to improve the air quality in your home.
New Resources: Health and Hydraulic Fracturing
Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” has become more common in the quest to extract natural gas from reserves across the United States. In a new podcast and factsheet, NIEHS takes a close look at the potential environmental health implications of this practice and what researchers are doing to learn more.
- Podcast: A Second Look at the Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing provides an update to our 2013 podcast and features experts Trevor Penning, Ph.D., of the University of Pennsylvania and Kathleen Gray of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
- Factsheet: Hydraulic Fracturing and Health offers a brief overview of what is known about the impacts of fracking on health and what NIEHS is doing to increase our understanding of these issues.
WE ACT’s Healthy Homes Summit Featured in Environmental Justice Journal
The latest issue of the Environmental Justice journal (Volume 7, Number 6, December 2014) features articles from the recent WE ACT Meeting, The NYC Healthy Homes Summit, held November 21 - 22, 2014. Ogonnaya Dotson-Newman, WE ACT’s Director of Environmental Health, was guest editor for the issue. The articles feature several of our PEPH colleagues and are free to the public through January 18, 2015. Visit the Environmental Justice Web page to access the articles below:
- Green & Healthy Homes Initiative: Improving Health, Economic, and Social Outcomes through Integrated Housing Intervention. Ruth Ann Norton and Brendan Wade Brown
- Partnering to Reduce Environmental Hazards through a Community-Based “Healthy Home Museum”: Education for Action. Katrina Smith Korfmacher and Valerie Garrison
- One Step at a Time Towards Better Health: Active Design in Affordable Housing. Elizabeth Garland, Kaylan A. Baban, Victoria Garland, Ganga Bey, and Sadie H. Sanchez
- Full Disclosure Required: A Strategy to Prevent Asthma Through Building Product Selection. Sarah Lott and Jim Vallette
- Pollution-Free Housing for All: Coalition-Based Research, Education, and Advocacy for Healthier Housing in Transportation and Land Use Planning in the San Francisco Bay Area. Catalina Garzón, Will Dominie, and Margaret Gordon
EPA’s Framework for Integrating Community into the Superfund Reuse Assessment Process
Check out EPA’s pilot framework for integrating health, prevention, and wellness considerations into the Superfund reuse assessment process. The framework includes suggested community discussion questions, a set of health and wellness indicators, suggestions for mapping health and wellness features at the neighborhood scale, considerations for site suitability and a case study example to illustrate the process. It also includes information on data sources, funding programs, and other resources to assist in the process. This framework may be useful for local government, community organizations, and community members who are considering future use for a Superfund site.
Upcoming PEPH-related Meetings
February 4-6, 2015: Children’s Environmental Health Network 2015 Research Conference in Austin, Texas. The conference will explore how the interaction between food and environmental factors affects children’s health.
February 11-12, 2015: Citizen Science 2015 , in San Jose, California. This is the inaugural conference of the Citizen Science Association. Citizen science participants, researchers, project leaders, educators, technology specialists, evaluators, and others will gather to move the field forward.
February 27, 2015: 36th Annual Minority Health Conference at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. This year’s conference will focus on the impact of socioeconomic factors on minority health, with an emphasis on health disparities in the aftermath of the recession. The conference will highlight recent research and best practices for advancing minority health by creating opportunities for mobility in the present period of economic recovery.
March 12-14, 2015: Xavier University of Louisiana College of Pharmacy’s Eighth Health Disparities Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana. The conference will focus on replicable interprofessional collaborative models and approaches from the clinical, research, and community arenas that integrate all levels of providers to improve health outcomes, eliminate health disparities, and achieve health equity. Submit an abstract for a poster or oral presentation by January 16, 2015.
May 26 - July 31, 2015:Future Public Health Leaders Program (FPHLP) at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. The FPHLP is a 10-week residential summer program that encourages underrepresented college students to consider careers in public health. The program includes public health and career mentorship, hands-on and practical field experience, seminars, lectures, and workshops with public health leaders. Applications are due by January 31, 2015.
August 10 - 13, 2015:Save the date for the 16th International Conference of the Pacific Basin Consortium , in Depok, Indonesia! Traditional areas covered by PBC conferences include hazardous waste management and remediation, e-waste, air pollution, persistent toxic substances, emerging pollutants, global climate change, and children’s environmental health. See the 2015 Preliminary Program for information on session topics.