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Your Environment. Your Health.

PEPH E-News August 2016

Volume 7, Issue 8: August 2016

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Grassroots Intervention Succeeds in Increasing Well Water Testing in New Hampshire

A community-academic partnership involving a New Hampshire volunteer group and scientists from the Dartmouth Superfund Research Program (SRP) Center demonstrated that a community-driven intervention can successfully increase water testing rates among people who rely on private wells at home. Unlike the public water supply, which is tested and treated for contaminants like arsenic, private well owners are responsible for ensuring their water is safe to drink. The community-led intervention, which aimed to increase testing rates in a rural region with a high number of households relying on private wells, resulted in well owners submitting more than three times the number of water samples to the state laboratory than in the entire previous six years.

"Drinking water contaminants such as arsenic have been linked to adverse health effects, including cancer," said Mark Borsuk, Ph.D., from the Dartmouth SRP Center. "In a state such as New Hampshire where many families rely on their own drilled wells, community interventions that actually get people testing are especially important."

A New Hampshire volunteer group, the Tuftonboro Conservation Commission (TCC), initiated the outreach effort by first working with Dartmouth SRP researchers to better understand the health effects of well water contaminants and how people can protect themselves from exposure. Then, with support from the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NH DES) and the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services Public Health Laboratory (NH DHHS Lab), TCC designed and implemented a community information campaign and well water testing service. By disseminating water testing kits, collecting and delivering samples to the NH DHHS Lab, and helping participants interpret their results, TCC made water testing convenient and accessible for residents.

"In a statewide survey we performed last year, we found that many families were not aware of the need to test their water for common contaminants such as arsenic," explained Borsuk. "Even those who knew they should test were often unclear about how to go about it. Thus, the distribution and collection of water samples by the Tuftonboro Conservation Commission was especially valuable." According to Borsuk, the survey also revealed that people are often more strongly influenced by their friends and neighbors than by scientists or government officials. "Thus, participatory programs initiated by communities can be especially effective in raising awareness and prompting people to test their water. The Tuftonboro experience supports that," he concluded.

During July 2012 and July 2013, TCC collected and delivered a total of 285 water samples to the NH DHHS Lab, more than three times the number of water samples tested at the same lab in the previous six years combined. Results confirmed contamination in many wells: 28% percent of samples exceeded the maximum level of arsenic allowed in drinking water by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and 23% tested positive for coliform bacteria, an indicator that water may contain organisms that cause gastrointestinal illness. Some households opted for a special analysis needed to detect the presence of radon in water; of those 79 households, 34% exceeded the NH DES recommended action level. These results highlight the importance of raising awareness among well owners about the need to test their water.

To help well owners in your community ensure their drinking water is safe, check out the Dartmouth SRP Center's Well Water Community Action Toolkit. Designed to help communities plan and implement their own activities to increase well water testing and treatment, the toolkit contains background information, a step-by-step planning guide, useful resources, and communication materials.

NIEHS Grantees and Partners Collaborate to Train Teachers on Citizen Science and Social Justice

From July 12 to 14, staff from the Mount Sinai Community Outreach and Engagement Core (COEC) and community advisory board members led a three-day course titled "Citizen Science and Social Justice in Your Neighborhood," a professional development session for elementary, middle, and high school teachers. This three-day course brought together experts in environmental health, law and policy, environmental protection, and education to help teachers incorporate citizen science and environmental health topics into their classroom lessons. COEC staff and community board members presented on topics including pediatric environmental health, health data tools, DNA replication, epigenetics, preterm birth, and environmental justice. The course was developed and facilitated by the Children's Environmental Literacy Foundation (CELF). Visit the Mount Sinai Core Center's Features Web page to view pictures from the event and to learn more about participating COEC partners.

The TENDR Consensus Statement

On July 1, Project TENDR (Targeting Environmental Neuro-Developmental Risks) released a Consensus Statement as a call to action to significantly reduce exposures to toxic chemicals that contribute to the prevalence of neurodevelopmental disabilities in U.S. children. Project TENDR is a unique collaboration of leading scientists and children's environmental health advocates concerned about widespread exposure to environmental chemicals linked to neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism spectrum disorder. Project TENDR is co-directed by Maureen Swanson (Learning Disabilities Association of America) and NIEHS grantee Irva Hertz-Picciotto, Ph.D. (University of California, Davis). Read the Consensus Statement and visit the Project TENDR Web page to learn more about the group's recommendations and resources to protect healthy brain development of current and future generations.

PEPH Environmental Health Chat Podcast Series

environmental health chat picture

The U.S. Global Change Research Program's 2016 Climate and Health Assessment shows that a changing climate endangers human health and welfare. In our latest podcast, we take a close look at how climate change affects one particularly vulnerable population: children.

You can find more podcasts on the Environmental Health Chat Web page or subscribe to the series on iTunes. We want your feedback! Send comments and ideas for future podcasts to podcast@niehs.nih.gov.

PEPH Grantee Highlight: Jada Brooks, Ph.D.

Jada Brooks, Ph.D., is an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Nursing, and she is studying the disproportionately high rates of asthma among American Indian children. To do this, Brooks studies how environmental pollutants interact with mental health and social factors to increase asthma risk in American Indians living in North Carolina. Findings from her work could inform new interventions to help decrease asthma risk in American Indian children. Read the Grantee Highlight to learn more.

PEPH in the Environmental Factor

The latest issue of the NIEHS Environmental Factor featured several stories highlighting topics and activities of interest to the PEPH community:

Native American health and research spotlighted at June events. NIEHS played a key role in two Native American health and research events in June.

Anniversary year features first NIEHS Global Environmental Health Day. Scientists, policy experts, and students from the Research Triangle Park area (North Carolina) discussed efforts to advance global environmental health through research, collaboration, and education.

New research centers connect environment and children’s health. A new phase of Children's Centers will study the unique vulnerability of children to pollutants in the environment.

Brown SRP addresses contamination in the Northeast. Two Brown University Superfund Research Program events, including a visit by U.S. Senator Jack Reed and Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., focused on environmental health and site cleanup.

NIH launches large study of pregnant women and Zika. NIEHS is joining a National Institutes of Health study of risks that Zika infection poses to pregnant women, their fetuses, and infants.

Workshop Summary: Health Risks of Indoor Exposure to Particulate Matter

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently commissioned the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to hold a workshop on what is known about indoor exposure to particulate matter (PM). The workshop examined sources of particles, their interaction with other elements of the indoor environment, exposure levels indoors, potential health concerns, ways to limit exposure, vulnerable populations, and means of communicating exposure risks and strategies to reduce exposures. Read the workshop summary to learn more. You can also check out an infographic summarizing information presented at the workshop.

APHA Public Health Fellowship in Government

The American Public Health Association (APHA) Public Health Fellowship in Government provides a unique public policy learning experience, demonstrates the value of science-government interaction, and enhances public health science and practical knowledge. The fellow will have the option of working in the House or Senate on legislative and policy issues, such as creating healthy communities, improving health equity, addressing environmental health concerns, population health, or the social determinants of health. APHA is looking for candidates with strong public health credentials and an interest in serving as a staff person in the U.S. Congress. The fellowship is based in Washington, D.C., so successful candidates must be able to move to the Washington, D.C., area by January 2017. All application materials are due August 15.

Upcoming PEPH-Related Events

August 3 - 5, 2016: Research Career Development Symposium for Underrepresented Groups and Women in College Station, Texas. This three-day symposium, intended primarily for junior faculty, postdocs, and graduate students, will provide mentorship and guidance on building a successful research career. It will focus on those who identify as part of an underrepresented group and/or as a woman, but everyone is welcome.

August 25 - 26, 2016: Advancing the Science of Community Engaged Research Conference Series in Washington, D.C. This year's conference theme is "Innovative and Effective Methods of Engagement."

September 8, 2016: Disaster Health Education Symposium in Bethesda, Maryland. Registration is now open for the National Center for Disaster Medicine and Public Health's "Disaster Health Education Symposium: Innovations for Tomorrow." There is no cost to attend this workshop, but registration is required.

September 12 - 14, 2016: Conference on Geospatial Approaches to Cancer Control and Population Sciences at the NIH Campus in Bethesda, Maryland. Hosted by the National Cancer Institute's Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences, this conference will bring together researchers across the cancer control continuum using geospatial tools, models, and approaches to address cancer prevention and control. Register by August 31, 2016.

September 14 - 16, 2016: 8th International Network on Children's Health, Environment and Safety (INCHES) Conference in Barcelona, Spain.

October 25 - 26, 2016: Research Community Forum in Hartford, Connecticut. Sponsored by the Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP), day one of this symposium will focus on ethical issues around engaging community participation in research, and day two will be an interactive opportunity to engage with OHRP staff.

October 29 - November 2, 2016: American Public Health Association (APHA) 2016 Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado. This year's conference theme is "Creating the Healthiest Nation: Ensuring the Right to Health."

December 5 - 8, 2016: NIEHS Environmental Health Science FEST (EHS Fest) in Durham, North Carolina. As part of its 50th Anniversary celebrations, NIEHS is organizing the EHS FEST to bring together researchers, community engagement teams, trainees, and young investigators, all supported by NIEHS, for several days of scientific dialog. Submissions for the poster session, film festival, and sensor fair are due August 19. Registration for EHS FEST will open around August 1.

December 14 - 15, 2016: 9th Annual Conference on the Science of Dissemination and Implementation in Health in Washington, D.C. Co-hosted by NIH and AcademyHealth, this Conference aims to grow the dissemination and implementation research base by bridging the gap between evidence, practice, and policy in health and medicine. Submit an abstract by August 4.

January 24 - 26, 2017: NCSE 2017 Integrating Environment and Health in Washington, D.C. Organized by the National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE), this conference will bring together researchers, educators, students, policy makers, and entrepreneurs to explore environmental and human health connections.

March 1 - 3, 2017: Migrant Labor and Global Health (MLGH) Conference on the University of California, Davis campus. The MLGH Conference serves as a platform to explore the multidisciplinary aspects of migration and their impact on health.

Funding Opportunities

Visit the PEPH Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOA) page for more PEPH-related funding opportunities.

Long-term Exposure to Air Pollution and Development of Cardiovascular Disease. As part of its Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is seeking applications that propose to expand and inform the understanding of the mechanism(s) by which air pollution contributes to the development of cardiovascular disease. Deadline: August 2, 2016.

Mobile Health: Technology and Outcomes in Low and Middle Income Counties (R21). Encourages exploratory/developmental research applications that propose to conduct research to develop or adapt innovative mobile health (mHealth) technology specifically suited for low and middle income countries (LMICs) and to determine the health-related outcomes associated with implementation of that technology. Deadlines: August 31, 2016; a letter of intent is due 30 days prior to the application due date.

Enhancing Community Networks that Improve Coastal Environments, Health, and Well-Being. Funded by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine's (NAS) Gulf Research Program, these grants support projects conducted by community- and/or regionally focused organizations that seek to advance understanding of how science can serve community needs and to extend the use of such information to address coastal challenges. Deadline: September 14, 2016.

Revolutionizing Innovative, Visionary Environmental health Research (RIVER) (R35). The NIEHS RIVER program seeks to provide support for the independent research program of outstanding investigators in the environmental health sciences, giving them intellectual and administrative freedom, as well as sustained support to pursue their research in novel directions in order to achieve greater impacts. The program seeks to identify individuals, regardless of career stage, with a track record of innovative and impactful research and to combine their existing investigator-initiated research into a single seven-year award with direct costs of up to $750,000 based on current NIEHS funding. Deadlines: September 24, 2016 (letter of intent), October 24, 2016 (application).

Environmental Exposures and Health: Exploration of Non-traditional Settings ( R01, R21). Encourages interdisciplinary research aimed at promoting health, preventing and limiting symptoms and disease, and reducing health disparities across the lifespan for those living or spending time in non-traditional settings (i.e., playgrounds and nursing homes). Deadlines: October 5, 2016 (R01); October 16, 2016 (R21).

Research to Action: Assessing and Addressing Community Exposures to Environmental Contaminants (R01). Encourages applications using community-engaged research methods to investigate the potential health risks of environmental exposures of concern to the community and to implement an environmental public health action plan based on research findings. Deadline: Standard receipt dates apply (October 5, February 5).

Spatial Uncertainty: Data, Modeling, and Communication (R01). Supports innovative research that identifies sources of spatial uncertainty in public health data, incorporates the inaccuracy or instability into statistical methods, and develops novel tools to visualize the nature and consequences of spatial uncertainty. Deadline: October 5, 2016.

Reducing Health Disparities Among Minority and Underserved Children (R21). Encourages research that targets the reduction of health disparities among children. Specific targeted areas of research include biobehavioral studies that incorporate multiple factors that influence child health disparities; studies that target the specific health promotion needs of children with a known health condition and/or disability; and studies that test and evaluate the comparative effectiveness of health promotion interventions conducted in traditional and nontraditional settings. Deadline: October 16, 2016.

Education and Health: New Frontiers ( R01, R03, R21). Supports research that will further elucidate the pathways involved in the relationship between education and health outcomes and in doing so to carefully identify the specific aspects and qualities of education that are responsible for this relationship and what the mediating factors are that affect the nature of the causal relationship. Deadlines: October 5, 2016 (R01); October 16, 2016 (R03, R21).

Advancing Basic Behavioral and Social Research on Resilience: An Integrative Science Approach (UG3/UH3). To elucidate mechanisms and processes of resilience within a general framework that emphasizes its dynamics and interactions across both time and scale, multiple contexts, multiple outcomes, and multiple time frames. Deadlines: November 1, 2016 (letter of intent); December 1, 2016 (application).

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