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Your Environment. Your Health.

PEPH E-News February 2019

Volume 10, Issue 2: February 2019

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New Mapping Tool Pinpoints Environmental Inequality in Washington State

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A new interactive map developed by NIEHS-funded researchers and partners helps shed light on how Washington communities rank on environmental health risk factors. The tool combines measures of pollution, proximity to environmental hazards, population health, and socioeconomic status into a score used to rank each of Washington's 1,458 census districts on their relative environmental health risk.

The Washington Environmental Health Disparities Map, developed by University of Washington (UW) researchers and partners, uses the most comprehensive data available to map 19 indicators of community health. The map provides a statewide view of the cumulative environmental health risks each neighborhood faces from pollution that may contribute to inequitable health outcomes and unequal access to healthy neighborhoods.

"This tool can provide policymakers, community leaders, and others with data to inform and shape policies and investments that reduce environmental health impacts on our communities," said UW Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences (DEOHS) associate professor Edmund Seto, Ph.D., in a DEOHS news story. Seto, who helped develop the tool, is part of the NIEHS-funded UW Center for Exposures, Diseases, Genomics and Environment.

maps of washington state

The tool ranks communities from 1, in blue, to 10, in red, to show the risk they face from environmental health hazards.
(Photo courtesy of the Washington State Department of Health)

The interactive maps provide concrete evidence that census districts with more people of color, immigrants, and poor or working-class households are often located closer to industrial zones, polluted waterways, and high-traffic roads. These districts also tend to lack enough affordable housing and have unequal access to healthy neighborhoods.

"The map makes clear that people in communities with lower incomes, less access to education and health care, and poorer overall health also shoulder a disproportionate share of the burden of environmental pollution," said Michael Yost, Ph.D., an NIEHS-funded researcher and member of the project team.

Led by UW DEOHS doctoral student Esther Min, the tool was developed through a two-year collaboration between the UW DEOHS, the statewide environmental justice coalition Front and Centered, the Washington State Department of Health, the Washington State Department of Ecology, and the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency. They adapted the methodology from the California Environmental Protection Agency's CalEnviroScreen, a mapping tool that helps identify California communities that are most affected by pollution, as well as locations where people are especially vulnerable to pollution's effects.

Community members discuss the effects of pollution in their neighborhoods

Community members discuss the effects of pollution in their neighborhoods at one of the 11 listening sessions.
(Photo courtesy of Front and Centered)

Nearly 200 people across Washington helped shape the tool through a series of 11 statewide listening sessions. As part of these sessions, community members described environmental health risk factors their community faces and how they are affected by them.

The sessions included community groups representing immigrants, tribes, farmworkers, communities of color, the elderly, and others disproportionately impacted by pollution. More listening sessions will take place to regularly inform the project and to check the accuracy of the map.

According to the full report about the tool's development and methodology, the research team reviewed existing methods and tools that modeled environmental health impacts. They also conducted a literature review to determine the relationship between different indicators and environmental health. They identified data sources for these indicators and evaluated and assessed each data source for reliability and quality.

"By harnessing data to pinpoint environmental inequality, it's possible to show precisely where the state's most highly impacted communities are concentrated and create customized solutions to reduce their risk," Seto said. The Washington Environmental Health Disparities Map is intended to help policymakers and the public visualize and compare how pollution and other environmental risks affect Washington residents and could potentially inform state environmental policy, budgeting priorities, and regulation enforcement to reduce health inequities across communities.

Hoppin Discusses GenX Exposure Study on NC State Research Podcast

Jane Hoppin, Sc.D., talks about working with communities, collecting data, and initial findings from the GenX Exposure Study on the latest episode of the North Carolina State University (NC State) podcast, Audio Abstract. The study is being conducted by NC State Center for Human Health and the Environment (CHHE) researchers and partners, who are assessing GenX exposure in people living in the Lower Cape Fear River Basin, North Carolina. Community members were concerned about their exposure after GenX was found in their drinking water in June 2017. NIEHS awarded Hoppin a time-sensitive research grant to investigate the contamination. "I think that one of the most important outcomes of this study is that we've got a lot of scientists engaged with people, not just talking to each other, but talking to the community, and trying to figure out how to answer their questions," Hoppin, who serves as CHHE's deputy director, told Audio Abstract. Listen to the ten-minute episode to learn more about the GenX Exposure Study.

UNC Releases a New Online Training Module Regarding Asthma

The Community Outreach and Engagement Core at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Center for Environmental Health and Susceptibility has released a new online module, Environmental Asthma Triggers: A Training for Public Health Professionals. The 45-minute module focuses on understanding asthma as a chronic lung disease, environmental exposures that worsen asthma, and the evidence-based strategies for reducing and/or eliminating those exposures. It was produced in partnership with the North Carolina Institute for Public Health.

OBSSR Seeks Input on a Revised Behavioral and Social Science Research Definition

NIH's Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR) has issued a Request for Information (RFI) intended to gather broad public input on a revised definition of behavioral and social sciences research (BSSR). The definition, originally developed in 1996 and updated periodically since then, is available on the OBSSR website. The field has evolved significantly during the last two decades, and a more extensive update of the definition is needed to improve OBSSR's and NIH's ability to assess and monitor BSSR funding. The OBSSR invites input from behavioral and social science researchers in academia and industry, health care professionals, patient advocates and advocacy organizations, scientific or professional organizations, federal agencies, and other interested members of the public. To ensure consideration, input must be submitted at OBSSR's crowdsourcing IdeaScale website by February 22, 2019. IdeaScale will also allow users to view and comment on others' input. View the RFI for more information.

NASEM Releases "Learning Through Citizen Science" Report

Scientific research that involves nonscientists contributing to research processes – also known as "citizen science" – supports participants' learning, engages the public in science, contributes to community scientific literacy, and can serve as a valuable tool to facilitate larger scale research, according to a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM). Citizen science includes projects that grow out of a community's desire to address an inequity or advance a priority, the report says.

In order to maximize learning outcomes, the report recommends that designers and practitioners of citizen science projects should intentionally build them for learning. This involves knowing the audience, intentionally designing for diversity, engaging stakeholders in the design, supporting multiple kinds of participant engagement, encouraging social interaction, building learning supports into the project, and iteratively improving projects through evaluation and refinement. The report also lays out a research agenda that can help to build the field of citizen science by filling gaps in the current understanding of how citizen science can support science learning and enhance science education.

PEPH Environmental Health Chat Podcast Series

PEPH Environmental Health Chat Podcast

In our latest podcast, Opioids and Worker Health, learn about the significant risks that opioids pose to worker health and safety and how different agencies and nonprofit organizations are working to address these concerns. In addition, learn about different educational and prevention strategies that can be used to protect workers.

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

PEPH Webinar: Culturally Appropriate Communications in Environmental Health Sciences Research

NIEHS has long encouraged research that addresses community concerns and that fully involves community members in a collaborative process. To ensure effective community engagement in research, early community-based participatory research advocates noted the importance of developing and maintaining mutually respectful and dynamic partnerships. This webinar, scheduled for February 15, from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. EST, will explore how two investigators have implemented culturally appropriate communication in their studies of environmental risks among Latinx – a gender-neutral alternative to Latino – cleaning staff and Native American women.

PEPH Grantee Highlight: Thomas McKeon

Thomas McKeon, a researcher and academic coordinator at the University of Pennsylvania (Penn), has a longstanding interest in environmental health literacy and community engagement. Working with the Community Engagement Core (CEC) of Penn's Center of Excellence in Environmental Toxicology, McKeon collaborates with stakeholders to identify and solve environmental health problems for Pennsylvania communities. For example, the CEC has worked to address the high asthma rates in Philadelphia by educating staff at early learning centers about how to protect children from poor outdoor air quality. "After receiving our training, staffers indicated increased knowledge about air quality and air monitoring resources," said McKeon. "This gave staffers a sense of empowerment through improved knowledge and encouraged positive decision-making to protect children at risk for asthma." Read the PEPH grantee highlight to learn more.

PEPH in the January NIEHS Environmental Factor

Job Announcement: Assistant Professor in Agricultural and Environmental Sciences

As part of a campus-wide initiative to hire leading research faculty with a strong commitment to teaching, research, and service that will promote the success of underrepresented minority students (African-American, Latino(a)/Chicano(a)/Hispanic, and Native American) and address the needs of California, UC Davis announces an assistant professor faculty position in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Applications are encouraged from candidates with a strong disciplinary background in any current or emerging area that will fit within one of the school's departments in the agricultural, environmental, and human/social sciences. For more information, see the full job announcement.

Job Announcement: Environmental Epidemiologist

The Departments of Environmental Health and Epidemiology at Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health seek candidates for multiple tenure-track positions in environmental epidemiology at all academic ranks. Each successful candidate will have a primary appointment in either Environmental Health or Epidemiology and a secondary appointment in the other. The departments seek applicants in all areas of environmental epidemiology, with strength in methods. One area of particular interest is the health effects of climate change.

Upcoming PEPH-Related Events

March 13 – 17, 2019: CitSci2019 in Raleigh, North Carolina. Sponsored by the Citizen Science Association, the 2019 meeting focuses on broadening the citizen science community. They will have three tracks, including one focused on environmental justice issues that will address data collection to improve human and environmental health and that will be discussed by community-based organizations and engaged partners. We are compiling a "PEPH at CitSci2019" booklet listing NIEHS grantees and their partners who will be presenting. If you are a grantee/partner presenting at this meeting, please send your session information to with "CitSci2019 Info" in the subject line.

March 28 – 29, 2019: Plain Language for Health in Boston, Massachusetts. This workshop features two days of training with health literacy and plain language experts from the Tufts University School of Medicine, as well as an evening networking reception sponsored by CommunicateHealth. The event is co-sponsored by the Tufts Clinical and Translational Science Institute and will include an added focus on plain language writing for researchers and informed consent.

June 6 – 7, 2019: Integrating Quality Conference: Getting on Track to Achieve Health Equity in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The 11th annual Association of American Medical Colleges' Integrating Quality Conference is a highly interactive, interprofessional meeting focused on sharing innovative approaches and strategies for improving health care quality, patient safety, and high-value care through health professions education, care delivery, and research.

June 10 – 14, 2019: Health Literacy Leadership in Boston, Massachusetts. This one-week institute directly supports the work of professionals engaged in health literacy to transform public health and health care delivery in the United States and across the globe. Those working to improve patient-provider communication and health care quality, as well as those working with learners in community settings, will find the institute directly applicable.

Funding Opportunities

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

Pre-Disaster Mitigation (PDM). This program is designed to assist states, U.S. territories, federally recognized tribes, and local communities in implementing a sustained pre-disaster natural hazard mitigation program. The goal is to reduce overall risk to people and structures from future hazard events while also reducing reliance on federal funding in future disasters. Deadline: January 31, 2019.

Addressing Health Disparities through Effective Interventions Among Immigrant Populations (R01 Clinical Trial Optional). Supports innovative research to develop and implement effective interventions to address health disparities among U.S. immigrant populations. Deadline: February 5, 2019.

Addressing the Etiology of Health Disparities and Health Advantages Among Immigrant Populations (R01). Supports innovative research to understand uniquely associated factors (biological, behavioral, sociocultural, and environmental) that contribute to health disparities or health advantages among U.S. immigrant populations. Deadline: February 5, 2019.

Research to Action: Assessing and Addressing Community Exposures to Environmental Contaminants (R01 Clinical Trial Optional). 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: February 5, 2019. Check out the Research to Action Currently Funded Grantees webpage for a sense of the types of projects supported through this FOA.

Environmental Exposures and Health: Exploration of Non-Traditional Settings (R01 and R21 Clinical Trial Optional). 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: February 5, 2019 (R01); February 16, 2019 (R21).

Research Enhancement Award Program (REAP) for Health Professional Schools and Graduate Schools (R15 Clinical Trial Not Allowed). The purpose of REAP is to stimulate basic and clinical research in educational institutions that provide baccalaureate or advanced degrees for a significant number of the nation's research scientists but that have not been major recipients of NIH support. REAP grants are intended to support small-scale research projects proposed by faculty members of eligible domestic institutions, to expose undergraduate and/or graduate students at health professional schools or graduate schools to meritorious research projects, and to strengthen the research environment of the applicant institution. Eligible institutions must award NIH-relevant baccalaureate or advanced degrees in health professions and have received less than $6 million per year of NIH support (total costs) in 4 of the last 7 fiscal years. Deadline: February 25, 2019.

Mechanism for Time-Sensitive Research Opportunities in Environmental Health Sciences (R21). Supports environmental health research in which an unpredictable event provides a limited window of opportunity to collect human biological samples or environmental exposure data. The program aims to understand the consequences of natural and human-caused disasters or emerging environmental public health threats in the U.S. and abroad. See the Funding Opportunity Announcement for application due dates.

Leveraging Health Information Technology (Health IT) to Address Minority Health and Health Disparities (R01 Clinical Trial Optional). Supports research that examines how health information technology adoption impacts minority health and health disparity populations in access to care, quality of care, patient engagement, and health outcomes. Deadline: March 4, 2019. A letter of intent is due 30 days prior to the application.

NIH Support for Conferences and Scientific Meetings (Parent R13). Supports investigator-initiated scientific meetings. NIEHS is interested in supporting meetings that will advance the field of environmental health sciences. Deadline: April 12, 2019 (application). A letter requesting permission (LRP) to submit an application is required and must be received six weeks prior to the application receipt date. See the NIEHS Conference Grant webpage for information about the types of conferences and meetings the Institute is interested in supporting, as well as LRP guidelines.

Collaborative Minority Health and Health Disparities Research with Tribal Epidemiology Centers (R01 Clinical Trial Not Allowed). Supports collaborative research between Tribal Epidemiology Centers and extramural investigators on topics related to minority health and health disparities in American Indian / Alaska Native (AI/AN) populations. Deadline: December 4, 2019.

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