The NIEHS Superfund Research Program (SRP) hosted a Risk e-Learning webinar series focused on strategies to communicate potential environmental health risks to reduce exposures and improve health.

The four-part series showcased effective risk communication strategies and how they have been tailored to needs of diverse communities. Presentations also highlighted first-hand experiences designing risk communication messages and campaigns, evaluating impact, and adapting communication strategies for different populations. The webinar series built on an SRP workshop held in June 2021.

Session I - Designing and Tailoring Messages

Friday, September 24, 2021, 1:00 PM-3:00 PM EDT

To view the archive, visit the EPA’s CLU-IN Training & Events webpage.

The first session focused on designing and tailoring messages to better communicate risks to vulnerable communities. Presenters included how they have worked with communities and other stakeholders to develop targeted messages and create effective communication tools.

Speakers:

  • Maida Galvez, M.D., and Joseph Wilson, M.H.S., Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
  • Esther Erdei, Ph.D., University of New Mexico SRP Center
  • Rachel Morello-Frosch, Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley SRP Center
  • Moderator: Sara Amolegbe, M.S.P.H., NIEHS Superfund Research Program

Maida Galvez, M.D., and Joseph Wilson, M.H.S., of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, shared foundational principles of messaging development routinely used by the Region 2 Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit, New York State Children’s Environmental Health Center, and the Mount Sinai NIEHS Community Engagement Core. They discussed case examples that highlight partnered messaging development featuring the Prescription for Prevention Program and other examples of environmental public health messaging which were enhanced by inclusion of diverse perspectives.  

Esther Erdei, Ph.D., of the University of New Mexico explained how Tribal communities are in increased risk to be exposed to various toxicants through numerous pathways that are associated with their traditional land use patterns, ceremonies, and overall dependence on their outdoor, rural and built environment. The presentation highlighted successful methods of engaging the communities in risk communication, environmental health education, and the report-back process.

Rachel Morello-Frosch, Ph.D., of the University of California, Berkeley discussed processes for engaging community collaborators in the development of online and other digital tools to inform individual and collective exposure reduction strategies and regulatory decision-making. The presentation highlighted community- and data-driven strategies such as the Water Equity Science Shop Statewide drinking water tool, spatial maps of sea level rise threats to hazardous facilities in communities in California, and application of a Digital Report-Back Interface to report back biomonitoring results to study participants. 


Session II - Combatting Misinformation and Mistrust When Communicating Health Risks

Friday, October 8, 2021, 1:00 PM-3:00 PM EDT

To view the archive, visit the EPA’s CLU-IN Training & Events webpage.

In the second session, presenters described research on designing and framing communication messages so that they are sensitive to the cultural and social context of communities. These efforts aim to combat misinformation and mistrust when communicating health and environmental risks.

Speakers:

  • Wen-Ying Sylvia Chou, Ph.D., National Cancer Institute
  • James Dearing, Ph.D., Michigan State University SRP Center
  • Karletta Chief, Ph.D., University of Arizona SRP Center
  • Moderator: Jamie Rayman, M.P.H., Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry

Wen-Ying Sylvia Chou, Ph.D., of the National Cancer Institute, focused on the spread of misinformation online as a longstanding public health challenge. In this talk, Dr. Chou outlined current knowledge on health misinformation across various domains, contextualized misinformation in the online information ecosystem, and shared some mitigation approaches that have been implemented.
 
Jim Dearing, Ph.D., of Michigan State University SRP Center, outlined how the framing of a message can elicit different reactions from those who see, hear, or read the message. For highly politicized issues, he suggested a multisolving innovation strategy. This presentation described this approach to message framing with reference to community-level practices, programs, and technologies that promise both human health and carbon mitigation outcomes.
 
Karletta Chief, Ph.D., of the University of Arizona SRP Center, shared the experiences of building community and university partnerships to quickly develop and implement a community-based risk assessment in the wake of environmental disasters. This talk highlighted the results from working with Diné community partners to design and implement a culturally appropriate study to prevent potentially harmful exposures and to communicate risks effectively. 

Session III - Engaging Communities and Tailoring Messages to Advance Equity and Justice

Wednesday, October 20, 2021, 1:00 PM-3:00 PM EDT

To view the archive, visit the EPA’s CLU-IN Training & Events webpage.

In the third session, presenters discussed how they have engaged and communicated with underserved and vulnerable communities and developed strategies to tailor messages to these communities so they can participate and use the information equitably. The session also included a presentation on the NIH Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostic-Underserved Populations (RADx-UP) Program, which funds community engagement programs with a focus on communities most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speakers:

  • Louie Rivers, Ph.D., North Carolina State University
  • Sharon Croisant, Ph.D., University of Texas Medical Branch and the Baylor College of Medicine SRP Center
  • Al Richmond, M.S.W., Community-Campus Partnerships for Health
  • Moderator: Madeline Beal, M.P.H., U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Sharon Croisant, Ph.D., University of Texas Medical Branch and the Baylor College of Medicine SRP Center, described the access and equity issues environmental justice communities face, such as risk of exposure due to residence or occupation, and status as migrants and immigrants. Disasters frequently disproportionately impact these populations, exacerbating existing inequities and injustices and contributing to stress, which often serves as a barrier to risk communication.  She discussed barriers to risk communication under emergent conditions and strategies for improving communication to reduce exposures.

Louie Rivers, Ph.D., of North Carolina State University, discussed his work engage with communities in Southeast Raleigh through the Walnut Creek Wetland Community Project. This presentation highlighted the process of engaging residents through focused groups and meetings to assess stream conditions in neighborhoods, support interests in green infrastructure, and increase environmental awareness.  

Al Richmond, M.S.W., Executive Director of Community-Campus Partnerships for Health (CCPH), described phase one of a COVID19 at-home testing project coordinated by the RADx UP Coordinating Data Collection Center. The Say Yes! COVID Test Project centers local community engagement strategies to reach underserved populations and promote confidence in addressing barriers to testing and vaccination. Lessons Learned from the public health intervention, including the novel approaches to social media highlighted.

Session IV - Communication Toolkits to Communicate Environmental Risks

Friday, October 22, 2021, 1:00 PM-3:00 PM EDT

To view the archive, visit the EPA’s CLU-IN Training & Events webpage.

The fourth and final session featured work by SRP-funded researchers who are translating research into communication tools and tailoring them for specific community needs. These specialized tools work to successfully communicate health risks and increase environmental health literacy.

Speakers:

  • BJ Cummings, M.A., and Lisa Hayward Watts, Ph.D., University of Washington SRP Center
  • Julia Brody, Ph.D., Silent Spring Institute and Northeastern University SRP Center and Phil Brown, Ph.D., Northeastern University SRP Center
  • Kathleen Gray, Ph.D., Sarah Yelton, M.S., and Megan Rodgers, M.E.A., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill SRP Center
  • Moderator: Demia Wright, M.P.H., NIEHS Worker Training Program

BJ Cummings, M.A., and Lisa Hayward Watts, Ph.D., of the University of Washington SRP Center, discussed how community and agency partners were involved in developing multilingual videos as the preferred tool for communication of risk from fishing in the Lower Duwamish Waterway Superfund Site. Presenters emphasized the empowerment process used to select and develop the project. They also discussed challenges in resolving different risk perspectives and messaging needs and how they have adapted our approach in subsequent projects.

Julia Brody, Ph.D., of Silent Spring Institute, and Phil Brown, Ph.D., of the Northeastern University SRP Center, described the process of reporting back personal biomonitoring and environmental exposure results. Examples ranged from their earliest paper-based methods to their Digital Exposure Environmental Report Back Interface (DERBI) in its computer and smartphone versions. They also addressed elements of training clinicians to use report-back methods.

Kathleen Gray, Ph.D., Sarah Yelton, M.S., and Megan Rodgers, M.E.A., of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill SRP Center shared their process for collaborating with diverse partners to communicate about potential environmental health risks. Featured projects addressed fish consumption advisories, toxic metals contamination of well water, and PFAS in water and air.