During a conference call organized by the Boston University Superfund Research Program (SRP) and their Research Translation Core Partner, the Collaborative on Health and the Environment (CHE), on Oct. 24, speakers from SRP Centers at Brown University, University of Arizona (UA), and Louisiana State University (LSU) explained their innovative work engaging communities to promote environmental justice.
The NIEHS SRP via its Community Engagement Cores (CEC), has a strong history of working with communities to support environmental justice goals. Environmental justice is defined as the fair treatment for people of all races, cultures, and incomes, regarding the development and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.
Phil Brown, Ph.D., a distinguished professor at Northeastern University and CEC leader at Brown, addressed Brown SRP’s environmental health and justice outreach and education across Rhode Island. Activities include working closely on environmental health and justice education and outreach with their community-based partner organizations, especially the Environmental Justice League of Rhode Island, expanding after-school health education for students, and developing science cafés to inform citizens of environmental health research and local issues. He also described Brown SRP’s work with multiple levels of government to develop comprehensive environmental legislation on remediation and reuse.
Denise Moreno Ramírez, the CEC coordinator at UA SRP, discussed how the UA SRP is working in the U.S.-Mexico border region that is plagued by a growing environmental health crisis resulting from inadequate environmental infrastructure, uncontrolled disposal of hazardous waste, and widespread exposures to heavy metals from mining and metal processing. She talked about UA’s work to empower underrepresented community members of the border region to become active participants in recognizing and resolving hazardous environmental contamination risks. She described one of their activities in collaboration with promotoras, which consists of a series of training modules for these Latina community health workers, which helps them translate environmental health science in their communities.
Margaret Reams, Ph.D., CEC director and co-principal investigator of the LSU SRP, discussed work with residents and local environmental leaders facing potential exposure to contaminants from Superfund sites. LSU SRP collaborates with Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN), a public interest organization with more than 100 affiliated groups, to reach leaders and members of grassroots environmental organizations. LSU SRP emphasizes the need to foster more resilient communities and to enhance the capacity of communities facing cumulative environmental exposures to take steps to make themselves safer.
Comments at the end of the call were made by Staci Rubin, a staff attorney with Alternatives for Community & Environment, an environmental justice organization in Massachusetts and a community engagement core partner of the BU SRP. To listen to a recording of the call and for background information and resources, visit the CHE website .