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Your Environment. Your Health.

PEPH E-News May 2017

Volume 8, Issue 5: May 2017

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Environmental Health Literacy as a Tool to Promote Prevention and Improve Health

Conceptual model of environmental health literacy
Conceptual model of environmental health literacy adapted from Bloom's Taxonomy, representing the potential for different levels of EHL across various environmental health topics.

A new commentary suggests that advancing environmental health literacy (EHL) can improve health by raising public awareness of potentially harmful environmental exposures and empowering communities to avoid or reduce such exposures. The article was published in the April issue of Environmental Health Perspectives.

"We highlighted the emergence of EHL as a distinct form of health literacy because its purpose is to prevent environmentally induced diseases rather than to improve the understanding of diagnosed individuals about their medical condition. EHL is also distinct from health literacy in that it focuses as much on addressing the sources of pollution as it does on promoting behavior changes that prevent or mitigate exposure to pollutants," said NIEHS Program Officer Symma Finn, Ph.D., who co-authored the commentary with NIEHS Partnerships for Environmental Public Health (PEPH) Program Lead Liam O'Fallon.

At its most basic level, EHL is the understanding that there are some factors in our environment that affect our health. EHL research can inform effective communication with diverse audiences about these factors and about ongoing scientific efforts to understand how they affect health. Such research benefits from a team science approach, involving academic and community experts in environmental health science, community-engaged research, risk communication, health education, anthropology, and dissemination and implementation science.

Finn and O'Fallon propose a conceptual model for measuring literacy that accounts for the evolutionary and variable nature of EHL across topics (Figure 1). The framework is adapted from Bloom's Taxonomy, a widely accepted model of educational attainment that begins with the recognition and understanding of a topic and ends with the ability to create new information. They emphasize that EHL does not follow a single, hierarchical path toward complete literacy. Furthermore, an individual's literacy can vary from topic to topic. For example, someone can have a high level of EHL related to asthma because of personal experiences with the condition, as well as widespread information linking asthma to air pollution but have very low EHL regarding connections between breast cancer and the environment.

The article also highlights the role NIEHS has played in the emergence of EHL through its support of research and education programs that bring community members and researchers together to address environmental health issues. Over time, the success of these programs in advancing community-engaged approaches to promote environmental public health has stimulated a more compelling conversation on the importance of EHL as a unique subdiscipline of health literacy and risk communication.

To close, the authors provide several recommendations; key among them are:

  1. Acknowledge that EHL is a tool for all partners. Research should focus on the EHL of community partners, investigators, health care professionals, educators, and decision makers.
  2. Coordinate federal resources. Coordination among federal partners will help ensure that research builds on previous efforts and uses effective tools and validated approaches.
  3. Conduct EHL research. Now is the time to address the gaps in knowledge and practice related to EHL. Of particular importance would be the development of methods for measuring EHL.

Dartmouth SRP Center "Arsenic and You" Website

The Dartmouth Superfund Research Program (SRP) Center recently launched Arsenic and You, a website providing comprehensive information on arsenic in food, water, and other sources. Arsenic and You is a valuable resource for families, caregivers, and vulnerable populations to learn about arsenic and health, routes of exposure, and steps to reduce that exposure. The Dartmouth SRP Center developed the site collaboratively with the Columbia University, University of Arizona, University of California, Berkeley, University of Kentucky, and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill SRP Centers.

Measuring Personal Environmental Exposures Workshop Summary

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recently released a report summarizing a November 2016 workshop that explored the implications of producing and accessing environmental exposure data in the United States. The workshop, sponsored by NIEHS, brought together a multidisciplinary group, including environmental health researchers, social scientists, business and consumer representatives, science policy experts, and other professionals to discuss issues related to personal sensor technologies, citizen science, data challenges, and more. Increased access to personal biological testing and advances in personal sensor technologies raise questions about how data on individual or community-based environmental exposures can be used to inform decisions about health and policies at the level of individuals, research institutions, private companies, regulatory bodies, or society at large. Read the report to learn more about issues related to measuring personal environmental exposures.

CDC Launches the Enviro Health App Challenge

The CDC recently launched the Enviro Health App Challenge to inspire innovative uses for data, which explore the connections between the environment and health. Data from CDC's National Environmental Public Health Tracking Network serves as the focus of this Challenge. The Tracking Network is a system of integrated health, exposure, and hazard data from a variety of national, state, and city sources. The CDC hopes the Challenge will increase public awareness of how tracking data may help people understand the connections between environmental hazards and chronic illness.

The deadline to submit an idea is June 23, 2017. Participants will compete for prizes within a $30,000 prize pot. Visit the Challenge webpage to learn more about evaluation criteria, the timeline, and registration.

Postdoctoral Fellowship Opportunities

Silent Spring Institute and Northeastern University

The Silent Spring Institute (SSI) and Northeastern University (NEU) are seeking a candidate with doctoral training in endocrinology, developmental biology, or cancer biology with a focus on environmental health. In addition to a strong background in her/his discipline, the candidate should have an interest in public health, community-based participatory research, and the social context of environmental health. This two-year appointment is part of the NIEHS Training Program, "Transdisciplinary Training at the Intersection of Environmental Health Science and Social Science" (EH+SS), co-directed by SSI and NEU's Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute (SSEHRI). The postdoctoral fellow will spend 2/3 of her/his time at SSI and 1/3 at NEU. Applicants should demonstrate a strong research record as well as experience in statistics, biology, toxicology, chemistry, computer science, or informatics. R programming is an asset. The ability to communicate and work independently within a multidisciplinary and multinational team of scientists is required.

Interested applicants should email a cover letter, curriculum vitae, writing samples (published or unpublished), and graduate and undergraduate transcripts to Professor Phil Brown (p.brown@northeastern.edu) AND careers@silentspring.org (put "T32 postdoc" in the subject line). Applicants also should email three letters of reference, including one from the dissertation advisor, to Phil Brown. Review of applications will begin immediately, and the search will remain open until the position is closed or filled. The position can begin as soon as possible but before September 2017. Contact Phil Brown with questions (p.brown@northeastern.edu).

Center for Environmental Research and Children's Health

The Center for Environmental Research and Children's Health (CERCH) at the University of California, Berkeley is seeking a candidate for a two-year postdoctoral fellowship in maternal and child health epidemiology. The position starts summer 2017. Contact Kim Harley (kharley@berkeley.edu) and Brenda Eskenazi (eskenazi@berkeley.edu), if interested.

PEPH Grantee Highlight: Madeleine Scammel, D.Sc.

Madeleine Scammell, D.Sc., is committed to helping communities understand and address the effects of environmental hazards on human health. In her role as leader of the Boston University Superfund Research Program (SRP) Center Community Engagement Core (CEC), Scammell has developed and maintained strong partnerships with organizations in the Northeast to provide technical assistance to communities faced with environmental health concerns. For example, she worked with colleagues to develop a Health Studies Guide to help community groups think through whether a health study would be useful or necessary in response to environmental concerns, such as drinking water contamination. The guide describes a wide range of health studies and walks through the process of choosing and designing a study. Scammel also leads the CEC for the Center for Research on Environmental and Social Stressors in Housing Across the Life Course (CRESSH) and was also a recent recipient of the competitive NIEHS Outstanding New Environmental Health Scientist award. Read the PEPH Grantee Highlight to learn more.

PEPH Environmental Health Chat Podcast Series

environmental health chat picture

As the weather gets nicer, it is time to get the kids outside more! In the Children, Nature, and the Importance of Getting Kids Outside podcast, hear how spending time in nature can increase physical activity, reduce the risk of chronic disease, and improve children's sense of emotional wellbeing. Plus, learn how health professionals and unique initiatives are working to prescribe nature to improve the health of children and their communities.

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

PEPH in the April NIEHS Environmental Factor

Free environmental health science web content from NIEHS. NIEHS is providing free environmental health science web content and trusted health information that is automatically updated.

Environmental health outreach in Puerto Rico. NIEHS held outreach activities in San Juan, Puerto Rico in March, including community tours, a town hall, and a worker training workshop.

Teacher workshops tackle problem-based science. Two groups of teachers enjoyed workshops at NIEHS, in collaboration with the North Carolina Association for Biomedical Research.

New NIEHS epidemiologist spotlights health disparities. Epidemiologist Chandra Jackson, Ph.D., studies how physical and social environments affect health and contribute to health disparities.

Five early career scientists are ONES to watch. Five Outstanding New Environmental Scientists (ONES) will receive NIEHS grants for their promising research.

Upcoming PEPH-Related Events

May 17 - 20, 2017: Citizen Science Association (CSA) Conference in Twin Cities, Minnesota. Join CSA for CitSci2017 and be part of conversations to create a field of citizen science.

June 14 - 15, 2017: Highly Fluorinated Compounds - Social and Scientific Discovery in Boston, Massachusetts. This conference will address the social, scientific, political, economic, and environmental health issues raised by per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs). Registration is now open.

July 10 - 13, 2017: NEHA Annual Educational Conference (AEC) and Exhibition in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The National Environmental Health Association's (NEHA) AEC is the nexus for environmental health training, education, networking, and advancement. Attendees also can earn Continuing Education credits.

August 14 - 18, 2017: NIMHD Health Disparities Research Institute in Bethesda, Maryland. Hosted by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD), this program supports the development of promising minority health / health disparities research scientists early in their careers. Applications are due May 12.

September 18 - 20, 2017: 2017 PEPH Meeting at NIEHS's main campus in Durham, North Carolina. Save the date for the 2017 PEPH Network meeting! This year, we will have in-depth conversations about different engagement approaches and the audiences with whom we work. We are also working with the Disaster Research Response network to discuss the different partnerships required to have an effective response in the aftermath of a disaster.

October 15 - 19, 2017: International Society of Exposure Science (ISES) Annual Meeting  in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. Mark your calendars for the 27th annual ISES meeting! Registration will open soon.

October 22 - 25, 2017: American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America Annual Meeting in Tampa, Florida. This year's theme is "Managing Global Resources for a Secure Future." NIEHS grantee Monica Ramirez-Andreotta is co-organizing and moderating a session titled " Community Engagement and Public Participation in Environmental Research." If you are working in this area, please consider submitting an abstract by May 23.

November 4 - 8, 2017: APHA Annual Meeting & Expo in Atlanta, Georgia. The American Public Health Association (APHA) is now accepting abstracts for the APHA 2017 Annual Meeting & Expo. This year's theme is "Creating the Healthiest Nation: Climate Changes Health."

Funding Opportunities

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

National Academies' Gulf Research Program Research-Practice Grants. This funding opportunity is designed to support research and practice projects on one of two topics: (1) integration of monitoring and evaluation into environmental restoration projects to improve outcomes in the Gulf of Mexico or (2) improving risk-based evaluations to support a public health response to the next oil spill. Deadlines: May 3, 2017 (letter of intent); June 28 (application).

Interventions for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention in Native American Populations (R01). The purpose of this FOA is to develop, adapt, and test the effectiveness of health promotion and disease prevention interventions in Native American populations. Deadlines: May 12, 2017 (application); a letter of intent is due 30 days before the application due date.

Addressing Health Disparities through Effective Interventions among Immigrant Populations (R01). Supports innovative research to develop and implement effective interventions to address health disparities among U.S. immigrant populations. Deadline: June 5, 2017.

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: June 5, 2017.

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: June 5, 2017 (R01); June 16, 2017 (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: June 5, 2017.

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 will 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: June 5, 2017 (R01); June 16, 2017 (R03, R21).

Health Disparities and Alzheimer's Disease (R01). Supports research to study health disparities in Alzheimer's disease (AD) and related disorders. Health-disparities research related to AD should include the study of biological, behavioral, sociocultural, and environmental factors that influence population-level health differences. Deadline: June 5, 2017.

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