Partnerships for Environmental Public Health (PEPH)
Liam R. O'Fallon, M.A. (http://www.niehs.nih.gov/research/supported/dert/phb/ofallon/index.cfm)
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.
Asthma Health Disparities: NIEHS Grantees Featured in National News Story
There is a growing body of research that examines the connection between a person's health and where he/she lives. Some researchers have been focusing on the prevalence and hospitalization rates of children with asthma and how they can vary from one neighborhood to the next. A recent Dateline NBC special, "Mold, mice and zip codes: Inside the childhood asthma epidemic,"(http://inplainsight.nbcnews.com/_news/2014/01/03/22149240-mold-mice-and-zip-codes-inside-the-childhood-asthma-epidemic?lite) draws attention to the disproportionally high rate of asthma among children living in low-income, urban neighborhoods. The special and an NBC News article about the connection between poverty and asthma feature three NIEHS-funded researchers who examine the environmental contributions to health disparities and consider ways to prevent and reduce environmental triggers of asthma.
Elizabeth Matsui, M.D., a member of the NIEHS and EPA Children's Environmental Health Center at Johns Hopkins University,(http://www.niehs.nih.gov/research/supported/dert/programs/prevention/grantees/hopkins/) discussed asthma triggers in the home. In the article, she identified leaky roofs and plumbing, mold and mildew, and mouse and cockroach allergens as common asthma triggers, many of which occur simultaneously in homes in low-income neighborhoods. According to Dr. Matsui, at least 95% of homes in one of the poorest areas in Baltimore have mouse allergens. Although cockroach allergens are a known trigger of asthma symptoms, Dr. Matsui has recently found that in Baltimore, mouse allergen exposure seems to be a more important trigger for asthma symptoms and exacerbations than cockroach allergen exposure. "The importance of controlling indoor exposures as a part of asthma management cannot be overemphasized," she said, "even though we know that home environmental interventions are effective and that their cost is similar to asthma medication, we have few systems in place to provide the resources needed to reduce indoor allergen and pollutant exposures."
Matthew Perzanowski, Ph.D., a member of the NIEHS and EPA Children's Environmental Health Center at Columbia University,(https://www.niehs.nih.gov/research/supported/dert/programs/prevention/grantees/columbia/) traveled to low-income neighborhoods in New York City with the Dateline host to explain why asthma is so prevalent in these communities. As a truck rolls by, Perzanowski explains(http://www.nbcnews.com/id/3032600/#53966583) that truck routes often pass through poorer neighborhoods, exposing residents to high levels of diesel exhaust, which can trigger or worsen asthma attacks. Furthermore, vehicle exhaust can readily penetrate people's homes. Perzanowski has found that children living in neighborhoods with higher asthma prevalence have higher levels of air pollution in their homes compared to children living in nearby neighborhoods with lower asthma prevalence. This association was driven by the density of truck routes and buildings burning residual fuel oil in their boilers. Additionally, Perzanowski and colleagues have demonstrated that early life exposure to these combustion-related byproducts increased the likelihood of developing an allergy to cockroaches, which is also an exposure that is more common in high asthma prevalence neighborhoods. "With asthma prevalence among 5 year olds ranging from 3 to 19% among neighborhoods in one city, it is critical to understand what environmental exposures drive these vast disparities in risk for asthma," said Dr. Perzanowski, "the combination of diesel associated combustion byproducts and allergens from pests appear to be important."
Tyra Bryant-Stephens, M.D., from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, discussed environmental justice issues surrounding access to physicians in low-income, urban neighborhoods. "Providing optimal asthma care through appropriate medical treatment and elimination of asthma environmental triggers reduces the disparities between the children in these affected communities," said Dr. Bryant-Stephens. In the article, she explained that it can be difficult for parents living in low-income neighborhoods to get their children to the doctor, which can lead to poorly managed asthma and more hospitalizations and trips to the ER for asthma-related problems.
The special, which originally aired on January 5, 2014, is broken up into 6 parts. The 10-minute segments could serve as great resources to increase awareness about the link between asthma and the environment, what to do about asthma triggers in the home, and promote discussions about environmental contributions to health disparities. You can access the videos and the article summarizing the special on the NBC News(http://inplainsight.nbcnews.com/_news/2014/01/03/22149240-mold-mice-and-zip-codes-inside-the-childhood-asthma-epidemic?lite) Web page.
Safe Practices for Digging into Dirty Garden Soil
City dwellers are turning to urban gardening as a way to gain access to affordable and healthy produce, but urban soils can also expose gardeners to metals and other contaminants. A recent article in Environmental Health Perspectives, "Urban Gardening: Managing the Risks of Contaminated Soil,"(http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/121-a326/) features Wendy Heiger-Bernays, Ph.D., the leader of an ongoing urban gardening project from the Boston University School of Public Health. Project results have shown there are elevated levels of lead, arsenic, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in soil samples collected from Boston community and backyard gardens, particularly in gardens adjacent to homes built before 1978. To help gardeners reduce their exposure, Heiger-Bernays and a team from the Boston University Superfund Research Program's Research Translation Core developed a series of safe practices urban gardeners can follow. "The benefits of growing and eating locally grown food are numerous and with awareness of soil conditions and inexpensive interventions, we can decrease the risks associated with exposure to common soil contaminants," said Heiger-Bernays. The safe growing practices include researching property history to understand the prior use of the soil, testing soil for contaminants if desired, or simply gardening in raised beds in which tested soil has been added. Other tips include using lead-tested compost to remediate moderately contaminated soil and teaching gardeners to always wash hands after gardening and to peel and wash produce before eating.
Want to learn more about urban gardening? Listen to the "Safe Urban Gardening"(http://www.niehs.nih.gov/research/supported/dert/programs/peph/podcasts/gardening/index.cfm) PEPH podcast to hear about an ongoing urban gardening research project in New York City.
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) (http://eh.uc.edu/ceg/coec/) at the University of Cincinnati Center for Environmental Genetics (CEG) (http://www.eh.uc.edu/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. (http://www.eh.uc.edu/dir_individual_details.asp?qcontactid=687) The "Pediatric Environmental Health" (http://eh.uc.edu/ceg/coec/community_modules.html) 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,"(http://eh.uc.edu/ceg/coec/community_modules.html) 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. (http://www.cincinnatichildrens.org/bio/N/nicholas-newman/)
The CEG COEC leveraged funds from NIEHS and the National Environmental Education Foundation (http://www.neefusa.org/) to develop and disseminate the modules, which are located on the CEG COEC's Educational Materials Web page. (http://eh.uc.edu/ceg/coec/community_modules.html)
The PEPH Evaluation Metrics Manual (http://www.niehs.nih.gov/research/supported/dert/programs/peph/metrics/index.cfm) 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.
NEW! Online PEPH Evaluation Metrics Training (http://www.niehs.nih.gov/research/supported/dert/programs/peph/metrics/training/index.cfm)
Current Issue of the PEPH Newsletter (http://tools.niehs.nih.gov/pephnews/lists/currentissue.cfm)
Resources on Asthma and the Environment
Here are some additional resources developed by PEPH grantees that can help you start or continue the conversation about asthma and the environment in your community:
- Clean Air Projects (http://www.nationaljewish.org/cehc/Overview) : Created by the National Jewish Health Children's Environmental Health Center, (https://www.niehs.nih.gov/research/supported/dert/programs/prevention/grantees/national-jewish/) this website is a one-stop shop for K-12 educational resources about the link between air quality and human health.
- Asthma and the Environment Factsheet (in English (http://ehscc.umich.edu/wp-content/uploads/Asthma-and-the-Environment-Fact-Sheet.pdf) and Spanish (http://ehscc.umich.edu/wp-content/uploads/AirPollutionandEarlyDevelopmentSPN.pdf) ): Created by the University of Michigan Environmental Health Science Core Center, this factsheet explains how the environment can impact asthma.
- Visit the UNC-Chapel Hill Center for Environmental Health and Susceptibility Asthma (http://sph.unc.edu/cehs/asthma/) Web page for educational materials with tips for addressing environmental asthma triggers. Here are a few examples of the materials you will find there:
- Environmental Asthma Triggers Kit, which contains a Lesson Plan (http://sph.unc.edu/files/2013/07/asthmatriggerkit_lessonplan.pdf) and Solutions (http://sph.unc.edu/files/2013/07/trigger_solutions.pdf) to demonstrate and address environmental asthma triggers.
- Mold and Moisture (http://sph.unc.edu/files/2013/07/mold_and_moisture.pdf) Fact Sheet
- Chemical Irritants (http://sph.unc.edu/files/2013/07/chemical_irritant.pdf) Fact Sheet
- Fighting Asthma with ... a Healthy Diet? (http://www.niehs.nih.gov/research/supported/dert/programs/peph/podcasts/asthma/) Podcast: This PEPH podcast explores how a healthy diet might help reduce asthma attacks.
Children's Centers Researchers Featured in NPR story
In a recent NPR story, (http://kvpr.org/post/central-valleys-air-pollution-affecting-our-cells-and-genes) NIEHS-grantees explained their work on the Children's Health and Air Pollution Study - San Joaquin Valley (CHAPS) and what they've found about air pollution exposure and children's health in central California. Kari Nadeau, M.D., Ph.D., Katharine Hammond, Ph.D., and John Balmes, M.D., were interviewed for the story, which gives an overview of their past and current research into whether T-regulatory cells and exposure to the air pollutant PAH play a role in children's risk of allergic disorders, diabetes, and obesity. Their research is being funded through a grant from the EPA-NIEHS Children's Environmental Health Centers program.
Gene-Environment Interaction Contributes to Autism Risk
Exposure to air pollution may increase the risk for autism among people with a specific genetic risk factor, according to a new study (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24240654) funded by NIEHS. Published online in the journal Epidemiology, the study is the first to show a specific interaction between a well-established genetic risk factor and an environmental factor that independently contribute to autism risk. The study is highlighted in two articles in the January 2014 issue of Environmental Factor: one (https://www.niehs.nih.gov/news/newsletter/2014/1/spotlight-ASDgene-airpollution/) features lead study author Heather Volk, Ph.D., and the second (https://www.niehs.nih.gov/news/newsletter/2014/1/spotlight-ASDrecentautism/) features Cindy Lawler, Ph.D., chief of the NIEHS Genes, Environment, and Health Branch.
Collecting Health Data for Native Hawaiians / Pacific Islanders
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have launched a new project aimed at improving health data collection for Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders. While there is a lack of reliable health data for this population, the data available indicate this group experiences significant health disparities. Data collection begins February 2014, and findings will be available in the summer of 2015. To learn more, please refer to The Office of Minority Health (http://minorityhealth.hhs.gov/templates/content.aspx?ID=9716&lvl=1&lvlID=10) website.
EPA Releases Report on Tribal Environmental Research Program
The Environmental Protection Agency is celebrating more than a decade of supporting Tribal Environmental Research through the Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program. STAR researchers worked in partnership with tribal communities to better understand and manage toxic chemicals and other risks that can affect tribal traditional lifestyle, health, and well-being. Several of our PEPH colleagues have been funded through the program. Learn more about program accomplishments and impacts in a newly released report; (http://www.epa.gov/ncer/tribalresearch/news/results-impacts-010714.pdf) a summary (http://www.epa.gov/ncer/tribalresearch/news/results-impacts-summary-010714.pdf) is also available.
PEPH Environmental Health Chat Podcast on the Exposome
The "exposome" represents all of the things we're exposed to throughout life, taken together. Some scientists believe studying the exposome could help answer some big questions about what keeps us healthy — and what makes us sick. In a new podcast titled "The Exposome," (http://www.niehs.nih.gov/research/supported/dert/programs/peph/podcasts/exposome/) NIEHS talks to Emory University's Gary Miller, Ph.D., and Yomi Noibi, Ph.D., of the non-profit ECO-Action about what the exposome might mean for science and public health.
Stay tuned for our upcoming podcasts! Future topics include citizen science in environmental health and arsenic exposure through food. Find past podcasts on the Environmental Health Chat (https://www.niehs.nih.gov/research/supported/dert/programs/peph/podcasts/) Web page or subscribe to the series on iTunes. (ttps://itunes.apple.com/podcast/environmental-health-chat/id593495897?mt=2)
PEPH Webinar on Community Resilience
Mark your calendars for the next PEPH webinar, "Residents, Responders, and Resilience," to be held February 25, 2014 from 1:00 to 2:30 p.m. ET. We will send out more information and a registration link soon.
Upcoming Events on Hydraulic Fracturing
Hydraulic fracturing has the potential to have a lasting impact on our health, environment, and communities. Learn more about this emerging environmental health issue at these upcoming events:
- Webinar Series on Impacts of Natural Gas Extraction on Water Resources: The Harvard School of Public Health Research Translation Core (RTC) has partnered with the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis to serve as a host for the viewing of the NY Society for Risk Analysis webinar series on the impacts of natural gas extraction from the Marcellus Shale on water resources. The series will occur each month until June. This month's webinar, "Geochemistry Studies of Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing on Water Resources in Pennsylvania," will be held February 20, 2014. The public is invited to join the series! Visit the Harvard RTC Web page (http://srphsph.harvard.edu/ai1ec_event/webinar-series-viewing-on-impacts-of-natural-gas-extraction-on-water-resources-overview-of-epas-study/?instance_id=355) to learn more.
- Impact of Unconventional Natural Gas Drilling Operations on the Environment and Public Health Symposium: The Center of Excellence in Environmental Toxicology (CEET) and the Center for Public Health Initiatives (CPHI) at the University of Pennsylvania are co-hosting a day-long hydraulic fracturing symposium on February 18, 2014. Discussions will include current research, effects of fracking on health and the environment, and laws affecting it. There is a webinar option, if you cannot attend in person. People who register for the webinar receive an email with the link to the webinar and instructions the week of the symposium. Visit the CEET Web page (https://www.med.upenn.edu/ceet/center_activities.shtml#retreats) to register and see a draft agenda.
EPA/NIEHS Children's Centers Webinar on Chemicals in Consumer Products
In this month's EPA/NIEHS Children's Centers Webinar, five presenters will discuss how exposure to chemicals in everyday consumer products can affect our health. The webinar will be held February 12, 2014 from 1:00 to 2:30 p.m. ET. Register online (http://www.scgcorp.com/epaniehs2014/)
Upcoming Session Deadlines:
- It's time to start getting your proposals together for the next American Public Health Association meeting! (http://www.apha.org/meetings/AnnualMeeting/) This year's theme is "Healthography: How where you live affects your health and well-being." The meeting will be held November 15-19, 2014 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Abstract submissions for the Environment Section (https://apha.confex.com/apha/142am/env.htm) are due by February 14, 2014.
- The International Society for Environmental Epidemiology (ISEE) 2014 Scientific Committee is now accepting abstract submissions for poster and/or oral presentations. The meeting will be held at the University of Washington in Seattle on August 24-28, 2014. Detailed instructions and the online submission form can be found on the conference website. (http://depts.washington.edu/uwconf/isee2014/) Submit your abstracts by February 28, 2014!
Upcoming PEPH-related Meetings
- February 13-15, 2014: "New Partners for Smart Growth Conference," (http://newpartners.org/) in Denver, Colorado. A brochure (http://newpartners.org/2014/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Equitable_Development-NPSG14-Conference-Brochure.pdf) highlights those sessions focused on equitable development and environmental justice.
- March 5-7, 2014: "Association for Community Health Improvement Conference," (http://www.healthycommunities.org/Conference/index.shtml) in Orlando, Florida. This year's conference theme is The Critical Role of Community in Moving from Individual to Population Health.
- March 26-28, 2014: "National Environmental Justice Conference and Training Program," (http://thenejc.org/) in Washington, D.C., will focus on the needs and challenges of communities, governments, tribes, and other groups with an interest in environmental justice. Register (http://thenejc.org/?page_id=167) by February 25, 2014.
- April 30 - May 3, 2014: "Community-Campus Partnerships for Health (CCPH) Conference," (https://ccph.memberclicks.net/conference-overview) in Chicago, Illinois. Also be sure to check out the preconference workshops! (https://ccph.memberclicks.net/program#Pre-Conference)