Partnerships for Environmental Public Health (PEPH)
Liam R. O'Fallon, M.A.
Tel (919) 541-7733
Fax (919) 316-4606
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.
Inspiring Youth to Become Environmental Health and Justice Leaders
Educating youth about environmental health and justice issues can inspire them to be agents of change in their own neighborhoods. This was the goal of the inaugural Environmental Justice Summer Institute (EJSI), a partnership program between several nonprofit groups and the NIEHS/EPA University of Southern California (USC) Children’s Environmental Health Center. Through the program, local high school students learn about environmental health science and gain the skills to become environmental health leaders in their communities.
The students learned firsthand how their communities – which are surrounded by major roadways and are a flyover path for jets landing at the Los Angeles International Airport – bear a disproportionate share of environmental health issues. They used air and noise monitoring devices to track pollution levels at 14 locations around their neighborhoods, selecting places where they live, learn, and hang out. They mapped their findings to show high and low pollution locations in their neighborhoods, showing that areas under flyover paths had 10 times as many ultrafine particles as near the beach. The students also created videos as a way to voice their environmental concerns. They hope to use the videos to educate and engage local residents and to advocate for healthier communities.
The 14-session program culminated with a group presentation during the Environmental Committee meeting of the Empowerment Congress. The Committee members engaged in a question and answer session with the students, giving them a chance to explain how they might utilize the knowledge and experience gained during the program.
Students left the program more equipped to take leadership roles in their communities. According to community partner Scott Chan, one student from the program engaged friends and teachers to start an Environmental Justice Club at her high school. Chan is Program Director of the Asian Pacific Islander Obesity Prevention Alliance, a partner in the USC Children’s Center that focuses on air pollution and possible links to obesity and metabolic consequences. “We are very pleased with our community-academic partnership and are excited to see the grassroots changes programs like EJSI can inspire,” said Chan.
The EJSI program is also funded by the NIEHS USC Environmental Health Sciences Core Center, the Kresge Foundation, and the California Wellness Foundation.
Visit the USC blog to learn more about the community partners, EJSI program, and to watch the student-created videos.
Training the Next Generation of Environmental Health Scientists
Recruiting and training the next generation of environmental health scientists is essential to sustain the pipeline of future environmental health researchers. This is the goal of the University of California, Berkeley’s (UCB) “STEER Program: Short Term Educational Experiences for Research in Environmental Health for Undergraduate Students,” funded by the NIEHS Summer Research Experience Program. Through the program, a select group of undergraduate students spend their summer working alongside an experienced UCB faculty mentor, gaining research experience and learning how to navigate an academic research career in the environmental health sciences (EHS).
“There is a worldwide shortage of scientists in environmental health, yet with global issues such as increasing levels of air pollution and climate change, it is likely to become one of the most relevant and important fields in public health,” said program Director Michael Bates, Ph.D. “Our students gain a wide exposure to many sub-disciplines of environmental health, including toxicology, environmental epidemiology, and exposure science, as well as an introduction to the current and emerging issues on which the field is focused.”
At the start of the program, the students are paired with a faculty mentor who is researching a topic in which they share an interest. Throughout the 9-week program, each student works with his/her research team collecting data, reviewing relevant literature, performing laboratory experiments, or analyzing data. The students also attend twice-weekly seminars that include presentations given by faculty on their research programs and various aspects of EHS, as well as talks on ethics in science and advice on getting into graduate school.
The students don’t spend all of their time in the lab or lecture rooms. Each summer, the group takes field trips to sites of occupational and environmental health relevance, such as a stone quarry and a wastewater treatment plant. There is also a social program, including barbecues, hikes, and a baseball game. Activities are aided by a contribution to the program from the Northern California Center for Occupational and Environmental Health (COEH).
At the end of the summer, the students get the opportunity to hone their science communication skills by presenting the results of their 9-week research project to the other students, faculty, and guests.
The UCB program is funded through NIEHS’s participation in the NIH Summer Research Experience Program. To learn about NIEHS programs to educate and train science teachers, high school students, and college undergraduates, check out the NIH Summer Internship Program and the Administrative Supplements for Summer Research Experiences for Students and Science Teachers Program.
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 Annual Meeting Just a Few Weeks Away!
The 2014 PEPH Annual Meeting is just around the corner! This year’s meeting will be held September 22-24 at NIEHS in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina and will focus on environmental health literacy. The conference will include oral presentations, panel discussions, and a full day of hands-on workshops. Register for the meeting by September 8, 2014. If you can’t attend in person, organize a Watch Party and watch session presentations live via webcast! Local PEPH stakeholders and grantees can follow along as the meeting takes place and even contribute through social media. When the meeting breaks for discussion, we encourage you to address discussion topics amongst yourselves – just like the conference attendees. Visit the Watch Party Web page for more information to organize a Watch Party in your city!
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:
- Birnbaum highlights tribal health at Salish Kootenai College (SKC). Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D. visited SKC and met with Native American scientists conducting research to help reduce tribal health disparities.
- New NIEHS-funded center focuses on urban environmental stressors. A new environmental health center studies how exposure to the urban environment affects human health in Detroit and beyond.
- PEPH webinar highlights environmental health literacy. Webinar speakers discussed the evolving field of health literacy and improved health outcomes.
- Lead in kids’ blood linked with behavioral and emotional problems. As blood lead levels increase in children, so do their emotional and behavioral problems, according to a new NIEHS-funded study.
When Pollution is Personal – Resources for Reporting Results to Participants
Should researchers report results to study participants when sources of exposure, health effects, and exposure reduction strategies are unclear? NIEHS-funded researchers from the Silent Spring Institute and partners at Northeastern, UC Berkeley, and Commonweal recently released a Report-back Handbook and article with best practices to help scientists navigate situations when study results might generate worry. The group interviewed study participants, researchers, and institutional review boards and found that reporting results along with interpretive context can educate study participants about environmental health and motivate them to take actions to reduce their exposures. Check out the new article, published in the journal Environmental Health, and handbook for guidance on thoughtful and effective report-back principles.
Climate Change Modules for Nurses
Educating nurses about the health risks associated with heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and flooding prepares them for the adverse health impacts associated with climate change. To address this emerging need, the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments recently released a set of continuing education modules on climate change. The course, Advancing Clean Air, Climate, and Health: Opportunities for Nurses, consists of a workbook and Web-based media modules designed for public and environmental health nurses who are interested in learning about the science of climate change, public health impacts, and how they can effectively advocate for clean energy policies. Nurses who complete the workbook, videos, and post-test and evaluation will receive 3 nurse continuing education credits; the first 250 nurses to successfully complete the course will receive the credits for free!
Putting it into Practice: Pediatric Environmental Health Resource
Incorporating pediatric environmental health into medical curricula is an important step to raise awareness of environmental health issues among physicians and nurses. The Children’s Environmental Health Network (CEHN) has developed a training resource to help instructors teach pediatric environmental health to students, residents, or colleagues. The “Putting it into Practice” training resource consists of 12 PowerPoint modules that cover a range of environmental health topics, including air pollution, lead poisoning, endocrine disruptors, pesticides, and much more. Each module comes with a user’s guide, containing information on additional resources, possible discussion questions, suggested assignments, and other tips to help teachers incorporate pediatric environmental health into their programs.
Working Group Makes Fracking Research Recommendations
Since 2012, a network of NIEHS-funded researchers have been interacting on a regular basis to address what is known, and unknown, about the public health impacts of unconventional natural gas drilling operations (UNGDO), or fracking. The goal of the Working Group, which was made up of 16 of the 21 NIEHS-funded Environmental Health Sciences Core Centers, was to review the literature on the potential public health impacts of UNGDO and make recommendations for future research. Their conclusions and recommendations were recently published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. The expert panel’s conclusions – that potential water and air pollution might endanger public health and that groundwater and air quality should be tested before, during, and after natural gas drilling – are similar to those proposed by other groups with one significant difference: they advocate that future studies use community-based participatory research (CBPR) approaches. Community engagement is essential to successfully address environmental health disparities, understand public risk perception, and disseminate research findings, advises the Group. Read the article for an in-depth look at the Working Group’s findings and research recommendations.
PEPH Environmental Health Chat Podcast Series
Some people think that the practice of fracking will help provide for energy security. Others are concerned about the environment. Increasingly, there are people who are worried about how fracking might affect their health and safety. In the Impacts of Fracking podcast, we talk about the science of fracking, what we do—and don’t—know about its impacts, and how Health Impact Assessments could be used as an approach to identify how drilling might affect community members.
EPA/NIEHS Children's Centers Webinar
The September EPA/NIEHS Children’s Centers Webinar will focus on environmental exposures in the home. The webinar will take place Wednesday, September 10, 1:00-2:30 p.m. EDT. Register online.
Upcoming PEPH-related Meetings
- September 8-10, 2014: Latin American Conference on Compatible Mining: Protecting Vulnerable Populations and the Surrounding Environment in San Luis Potosí, México. The goal of this conference is to assemble a range of stakeholders to discuss how to implement compatible mining appropriate to the needs and perspectives of vulnerable populations and the surrounding environment. The University of Arizona Superfund Research Program is co-hosting the conference.
- September 22-24, 2014: PEPH Annual Meeting on the NIEHS main campus in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. This year’s theme is “Communication Research in Environmental Health Sciences: Environmental Health Literacy.” Register by September 8, 2014 or organize a Watch Party to participate remotely.
- October 5-9, 2014: Eighth International PCB Workshop: PCBs in Schools, Exposures, Effects, Remediation and Regulation. in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. The workshop will provide a forum for experts to coordinate and collaborate on issues of analysis, fate and transport, exposure assessment, metabolism and disposition, toxicity, and public health policy.
- October 6-8, 2014: NIEHS Worker Training Program 2014 Fall Awardee Meeting and Workshop on the NIEHS main campus in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. This event will focus on the serious health risks that workers will experience in the face of climate change. Register by September 12, 2014.
- October 26-29, 2014: PPTOX IV in Boston, Massachusetts. PPTOX IV hosts the world’s leading experts in endocrinology, toxicology, and environmental health. See the program for information on conference sessions.
- November 3-4, 2014: Health Literacy Research Conference in Bethesda, Maryland. This is an interdisciplinary meeting for investigators dedicated to health literacy research.
- November 12-14, 2014: Superfund Research Program Annual Meeting in San Jose, California.
- November 15-19, 2014: 2014 American Public Health Association in New Orleans, Louisiana. This year’s conference theme is “Healthography: How where you live affects your health and well-being.” Let us know if you will be presenting at APHA this year! We will compile the “PEPH at APHA” document later this summer.
- December 1-3, 2014: 2014 National Institute on Minority Health & Health Disparities Grantees’ Conference in National Harbor, Maryland. This year’s conference theme is “Transdisciplinary Collaborations: Evolving Dimensions of U.S. and Global Health Equity.”
- 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. The abstract submission deadline is October 17, 2014.
- February 11-12, 2015: Citizen Science 2015 in San Jose, California is the inaugural conference of the Citizen Science Association (CSA). Citizen science participants, researchers, project leaders, educators, technology specialists, evaluators, and others will gather to help move the field forward.