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Your Environment. Your Health.

Partnerships for Environmental Public Health

PEPH Newsletter

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Volume 11, Issue 3: March 2020

Building Community Capacity for Sustainability: Monitoring Air Quality Along the U.S.-Mexico Border

Engaging communities in the research process can build local capacity to address environmental health issues, such as air pollution. Using an air monitoring project funded by the NIEHS Research to Action Program as a case study, the authors of a new publication describe how community-engaged approaches increased community awareness, knowledge, and capacity to address air quality issues.

“Our project demonstrates that communities possess the expertise and assets to contribute substantially to environmental health research projects when they have equitable leadership roles and opportunities for meaningful engagement,” said Paul English, Ph.D., program director of Tracking California and co-lead of the Imperial Project.

Heavy traffic, intense agricultural production, and industrial facilities along the U.S.-Mexico border contribute to poor air quality in Imperial County, California. The community, which is 85% Latino and faces some of the highest rates of unemployment and poverty in the nation, was concerned about high levels of air pollution and asthma. To address these concerns, Comité Cívico del Valle, Inc., a community-based organization, Tracking California, a non-governmental environmental health program, and academic researchers at the University of Washington collaborated to implement the Imperial County Community Air Monitoring Project (or “Imperial Project”).

This community-engaged research project employed a community air monitoring network (CAMN) of 40 low-cost particulate matter (PM) monitors to produce real-time, community-level air quality information in Imperial County. The team posited that by monitoring the air quality, the community and researchers would be able to better understand air pollution patterns and inform actions to reduce air pollution exposures, which would improve health among residents.

The rope cutting at the Fairst Air Monitor ceremony

The Imperial County Community Air Monitoring Network launches its first air monitor at Brawley High School. (Photo courtesy of Comité Cívico Del Valle Inc.)

In the article, the research team outlines several approaches used to create opportunities for meaningful community engagement throughout the research process. The team highlights three critical approaches that contributed to the project’s success: establish equitable partnerships, convene a community steering committee, and leverage community assets.

Through interviews, members of the community steering committee suggested that the project improved the community’s ability to act on, respond to, and recover from poor air quality days. Respondents indicated that community engagement increased knowledge about the impact of local air quality on health; strengthened capacity to collect, access, and interpret air quality data; and fostered the ability to take action based on that data to reduce exposure to air pollution.

“By integrating the community members as key partners and giving them a leadership role as part of the steering committee, they helped to make the project successful. In addition, due to the increased capacity of the community members, our community-based organization was able to obtain a follow-on grant to sustain and expand the project. We received a state contract to operate and process data and grants to expand an air monitoring network across California in partnership with other environmental justice organizations,” said Luis Olmedo, executive director of Comité Cívico del Valle, Inc.

Even after the original research grant funding ended for this project, the community air monitoring network continues to be operated and sustained by the community partner, Comité Cívico del Valle, Inc. The network serves as a community resource used by residents, schools, researchers, and others to better understand and address air pollution and its impacts on community health while strengthening the ability of the community to prepare for, respond to, and recover from harmful air pollution.

Tips for Avoiding PFAS

New brochures provide information on how people encounter per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and steps they can take to reduce or avoid exposure. Developed by the NIEHS-funded University of Rhode Island Superfund Research Program Center (URI SRP Center), the two-page brochures pair colorful illustrations with simple tips to provide an engaging overview of PFAS exposures in the environment. Each brochure is geared toward a specific audience, such as families, new parents, and well owners. Check out the full series on the URI SRP Center Outreach webpage.

NIH Tribal Health Research Office Joins Facebook

The NIH Tribal Health Research Office (THRO) launched a Facebook page in January to share information about NIH research and activities that may be of interest to American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) communities. Established in 2015, THRO is the central hub for coordinating tribal health research across the NIH; gathering meaningful input from tribal communities on NIH policies, programs, and activities; and creating opportunities for the next generation of AI/AN researchers at the NIH. Follow THRO’s Facebook page to stay up to date on the latest AI/AN resources, funding opportunities, and events!

New Report: Implications of the California Wildfires for Health, Communities, and Preparedness

new workshop report explores the population health, emergency preparedness, and health equity consequences of increasingly strong and numerous wildfires, particularly in California. The report summarizes the presentations and discussions from the June 2019 workshop, Implications of the California Wildfires for Health, Communities, and Preparedness, which was sponsored by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Workshop presenters included NIEHS grantees Irva Hertz-Picciotto, Ph.D., who discussed two wildfire studies being conducted with support from the NIEHS time-sensitive research program, and John Balmes, M.D., who discussed how improved planning and preparedness in the health care sector can reduce poor health outcomes due to wildfire smoke exposure. Read the new workshop report to learn more.

RFI: Scientific Priorities for Behavioral and Social Science Research at NIH

The NIH Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR) is seeking broad public input on important new directions for health-related behavioral and social sciences research (BSSR). Specifically, OBSSR requests your input on research directions that will support the achievement of the scientific priorities in the OBSSR Strategic Plan 2022-2026 and that will advance or transform the broader health impact of BSSR.

OBSSR coordinates and promotes BSSR research across the NIH and assists NIH Institutes and Centers in developing research and training resources to advance the field. OBSSR supports a broad range of BSSR disease, condition, population, and setting-specific priorities across the NIH, covering the spectrum from basic to implementation science research.

OBSSR would like input on the most important or cutting-edge trans-disease research directions that would accelerate progress in the following three areas: synergy in basic and applied BSSR; BSSR resources, methods, and measures; and adoption of effective BSSR in practice. Responses are due March 29. See the RFI for more information.

RFI: Inviting Comments and Suggestions on a Framework for the FY 2021-2025 NIH-Wide Strategic Plan

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) invites input from stakeholders throughout the scientific research, advocacy, and clinical practice communities, as well as the general public, on the proposed framework for the FY 2021-2025 NIH-Wide Strategic Plan. The framework articulates NIH’s priorities in three key areas (objectives): biomedical and behavioral science research; scientific research capacity; and scientific integrity, public accountability, and social responsibility in the conduct of science. In addition, several cross-cutting themes, which span the scope of these objectives, are identified. NIH seeks comments on the items listed below; responses are due March 25:

  • Cross-cutting themes articulated in the framework and/or additional cross-cutting themes that may be considered;
  • NIH’s priorities across the three key areas (objectives), including potential benefits, drawbacks, or challenges, and other priority areas for consideration; and
  • Future opportunities or emerging trans-NIH needs.
Young adult female with young girl sitting on a sofa looking at a cellphone together

PEPH Environmental Health Chat Podcast Series

Harnessing Social Media to Share Science on Breast Cancer and the Environment

In our latest podcast, Harnessing Social Media to Share Science on Breast Cancer and the Environment, hear how health communication researchers are improving online information and messages about breast cancer. Plus, learn how they are teaming with social media influencers to help people understand and reduce their risk.

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.

Listen to more PEPH Podcasts
Laurel Schaider, Ph.D.
PEPH Grantee Highlight

Laurel Schaider, Ph.D.

When Laurel Schaider, Ph.D., joined the Silent Spring Institute in 2009, she began studying contaminants of emerging concern in drinking water wells on Cape Cod. Among the chemicals she found were per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a complex class of manufactured chemicals. Since then, Schaider has focused her research on how PFAS move through the environment, how people can be exposed, and how they affect human health.

Shaider leads the NIEHS-funded PFAS-REACH (Research, Education, and Action for Community Health) project and is the co-leader of the Community Engagement Core within the NIEHS-funded Sources, Transport, Exposure, and Effects of PFAS (STEEP) Center at the University of Rhode Island. As part of this work, Schaider communicates PFAS research findings to communities involved in the studies.

“Part of our mission is to translate what we learn to improve people’s health and reduce their risk of disease,” she said. “We provide information to consumers on how to reduce their exposure to potentially harmful chemicals in their daily lives.”

Read more about Grantee

Funding Opportunites

Application Due Date Mar 09 2020
Environmental Influences on Aging: Effects of Extreme Weather and Disaster Events on Aging Populations (PAR-19-250)

Supports research to advance our understanding of the impact of extreme weather and disaster events in aging human populations. With the companion FOA (PAR-19-249), which focuses on underlying mechanisms of aging utilizing animal models, these two FOAs will help to explicate the behavioral, biological, and socioecological processes that occur during extreme weather or disaster events that affect aging processes. Through the integration of the population studies and the companion mechanistic studies FOA, the goal is to improve the health and well-being of older adults via increased knowledge about extreme weather and disaster preparedness, response, and recovery.

Deadline: March 9, 2020

Letter of Intent: Due 30 days prior to the application due date.

Application Due Date Mar 11 2020
Interdisciplinary Research Leaders Program

Funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), Interdisciplinary Research Leaders is a leadership program for teams of two researchers and one community partner. In addition to engaging in leadership training and building new networks, each team designs a research project addressing health and equity in their community. Project topics for the 2020 program must address one of two themes: (1) Community Environment and Health or (2) Families and Child Health. Applications open January 10, 2020.

Deadline: March 11, 2020 (The application timeline is subject to change; see the How to Apply webpage for updates.)

Application Due Date May 25 2020
Support of Competitive Research (SCORE) Pilot Project Award (SC2 Clinical Trial Not Allowed)

SCORE is a developmental program designed to increase the research competitiveness of faculty and the research base at institutions with an explicitly stated historical mission and/or a demonstrated track record within the previous 10 years of training and graduating students from backgrounds underrepresented in biomedical research. Eligible institutions must award science degrees to undergraduate (B.S. or B.A.) and/or graduate (M.S. or Ph.D.) students and have received less than $6 million per year of NIH R01 support (total costs) in each of the last two fiscal years. The Pilot Project Award (SC2) is for those who are at the beginning stages of a research career, applying for their first non-fellowship research award, and who are interested in testing a new idea or generating preliminary data.

Deadline: May 25, 2020

Application Due Date May 25 2020
Support of Competitive Research (SCORE) Research Advancement Award (SC1 Clinical Trial Not Allowed)

SCORE is a developmental program designed to increase the research competitiveness of faculty and the research base at institutions with an explicitly stated historical mission and/or a demonstrated track record within the previous 10 years of training and graduating students from backgrounds underrepresented in biomedical research. Eligible institutions must award science degrees to undergraduate (B.S. or B.A.) and/or graduate (M.S. or Ph.D.) students and have received less than $6 million per year of NIH R01 support (total costs) in each of the last two fiscal years. The Research Advancement Award (SC1) is for investigators with a track record of research activity who are seeking to enhance their research productivity to transition to non-SCORE support in a limited period.

Deadline: May 25, 2020

Application Due Date Jun 05 2020
Dissemination and Implementation Research in Health

(R01 Clinical Trial Optional; R21 Clinical Trial Optional; R03 Clinical Trial Not Allowed). Supports innovative approaches to identifying, understanding, and developing strategies for overcoming barriers to the adoption, adaptation, integration, scale-up, and sustainability of evidence-based interventions, tools, policies, and guidelines. Conversely, there is a benefit in understanding circumstances that create a need to stop or reduce (“de-implement”) the use of interventions that are ineffective, unproven, low-value, or harmful. In addition, studies to advance dissemination and implementation research methods and measures are encouraged.

Deadline: June 5, 2020 (R01), June 16, 2020 (R03 and R21)
Letter of Intent: Due 30 days prior to the application due date.

Application Due Date Jun 12 2020
Maximizing Opportunities for Scientific and Academic Independent Careers (MOSAIC) Postdoctoral Career Transition Award to Promote Diversity (K99/R00 - Independent Clinical Trial Not Allowed)

Supports early-career, independent investigators from diverse backgrounds conducting research in NIH mission areas. The program facilitates a timely transition of promising postdoctoral researchers from diverse backgrounds from their mentored, postdoctoral research positions to independent, tenure-track or equivalent faculty positions at research-intensive institutions.

Deadline: June 12, 2020

Application Due Date Dec 04 2020
Research to Action: Assessing and Addressing Community Exposures to Environmental Contaminants (R01 Clinical Trial Optional)

Encourages multidisciplinary projects to investigate the potential health risks of environmental exposures of concern to a community and to implement an environmental public health action plan based on research findings. Projects supported under this program are expected to employ community-engaged research methods to not only conduct research but also to seamlessly translate research findings into public health action.

Deadline: December 4, 2020

Check out the Research to Action Currently Funded Grantees webpage for a sense of the types of projects supported through this FOA.

Application Due Date Mar 04 2021
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 04, 2021

Application Due Date Ongoing
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.
Deadline: See the Funding Opportunity Announcement for application due dates.

Visit the Funding Opportunity Announcements Page

Upcoming PEPH-Related Events

Apr 7 - 8 2020
Integrating the Science of Aging into Environmental Health Research in Washington, D.C. Hosted by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and supported by NIEHS, this workshop will explore emerging research on (1) how environmental exposures influence or mediate aging and (2) how aging influences environmentally mediated health outcomes. The event will also be webcast.
Apr 20 - 22 2020
NIH Regional Seminar on Program Funding and Grants Administration in Baltimore, Maryland. This seminar is intended to demystify the NIH application and review process, clarify federal regulations and policies, and highlight current areas of special interest or concern.
May 12 - 15 2020
Air Sensors International Conference in Pasadena, California. The UC Davis Air Quality Research Center will bring together stakeholders from academia, government, communities, and commercial interests to promote and advance air pollution sensors, improve the data quality from these sensors, expand the pollutants measured, and foster community involvement in monitoring air quality.
Jun 2 - 5 2020
International Society for Children’s Health and the Environment (ISCHE) Retreat in Hardingasete, Norway. Join a broad community of researchers, clinicians, regulatory and advocacy professionals, and young investigators at ISCHE’s 5th retreat titled, “Translation and Communication to Protect Children from Toxic Chemicals.” Proposed sessions will focus on diverse themes, including nurturing young investigators, translating interventions into real-world solutions, and environmental issues in Europe and around the world. Space is limited, so register early.
Jun 8 - 9 2020
Save the date for the 4th Annual Tribal Environmental Health Summit in Lac du Flambeau, Wisconsin. The theme of this year’s meeting is “Through Our Eyes: Advancing Resilience Through Research.” Stay tuned for more information.
Jun - Jul 29 - 1 2020
3rd Annual National Native Health Research Training Conference in Temecula, California. The primary goal of this annual conference is to contribute toward the growth of a Native health research community that is dedicated to honoring tribal decision-making processes, building trust through tribal community participation, and guided by tribal cultural knowledge and values.
Oct 24 - 28 2020

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