Improving the Use and Effectiveness of Community Advisory Boards
Community Advisory Boards (CAB) are part of many projects’ community engagement strategies. CABs obtain community input on research activities including recruitment, translation of research outcomes, and implementation of interventions. However, ensuring CABs are effective can be challenging for several reasons, such as a lack of information about how to implement recommended practices and a lack of CAB evaluation data. Moreover, published articles that mention the use of a CAB rarely describe the process of forming, maintaining, or evaluating it.
The Center for Indigenous Environmental Health Research (CIEHR), a Center of Excellence on Environmental Health Disparities Research, builds capacity for sustainable tribal environmental health disparities research. CIEHR is a collaboration between the University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University. CIEHR’s community engagement core (CEC) has been instrumental in filling the gap left by the lack of CAB standards. CEC members are aiming to improve the use and effectiveness of CABs by developing Guidelines for CABs to Engage in Research that are accessible, relevant, and adaptable by different CABs and diverse communities.
“CABs are one of the most widely used community engagement strategies,” said Nicole Yuan, Ph.D., M.P.H., a public health researcher at the University of Arizona and co-director of the CIEHR CEC. “We were surprised by the lack of literature and tools for establishing, operating, and evaluating CABs that are accessible to both researchers and community partners. With these guidelines, we hope to improve the use of CABs for community-based participatory research.”
Unique Aspects of the CAB Guidelines
The guidelines have three sections based on the three stages of CAB functioning: formation, operation, and sustainability and evaluation. Each section has best practices, worksheets, and handouts.
Unique characteristics make these guidelines practical, and their modular format ensures that CABs can use the sections most relevant to their work. Additionally, information in the guidelines is presented in concise bullet points, another feature the CEC thinks will encourage their use.
The worksheets are meant to facilitate decision-making and discussion during CAB meetings. For example, the section on CAB operation has best practices about CAB structure and operation and has two accompanying worksheets. The worksheets encourage CAB members to apply key concepts to their specific project. Some worksheets are meant to be completed individually followed by group discussion, while other worksheets are completed as group activities.
“We wanted to create guidelines that were useful for all partners involved in community-engaged research. Often tools are more targeted for researchers and are not user-friendly to community members and other stakeholders. We developed the worksheets so that all CAB members could learn about and apply key concepts from the guidelines to their own projects,” explained Yuan.
Because of the lack of CAB evaluation information in the literature, the guidelines’ section on sustainability and evaluation fills an important gap. The guidelines provide an overview of the role of external evaluators and different types of evaluation methods. This section also covers dissemination strategies for research findings and planning for CAB sustainability. Four worksheets cover topics such as evaluation survey topics and CAB accomplishments, challenges, and potential solutions.
Evolution of the Guidelines
The need for these guidelines arose organically from a CIEHR-funded research study on household air quality on the Hopi reservation. The study’s research team wanted to ensure their CAB was strong and productive, so they asked CIEHR’s CEC for help identifying strategies to recruit a diverse group of tribal members and increasing community engagement. However, the CEC’s literature review revealed that there were no materials useful for both academic and community audiences and that addressed all stages of the CAB process.
The CEC then started developing the guidelines, adjusting them to reflect feedback from the Hopi CAB. For example, CAB members had difficulty completing the worksheet on training because it was focused on individual professional development. Since CAB members were motivated to join the CAB because of their commitment to the community, rather than individual development, the CEC revised the worksheet to guide the discussion toward trainings that would improve CAB members’ abilities to help their communities.
Although the guidelines have been developed, testing with various projects and communities is ongoing. Early pilot testing with the Hopi CAB showed the guidelines provided a benefit, so the CEC is actively recruiting additional academic-community partnerships to utilize the guidelines and provide feedback. Researchers who request access to the guidelines must complete a consent form and online survey prior to receiving a copy for use with their project. The researcher will later be asked to complete a follow-up survey about the usability of the guidelines and to provide suggestions for improvement. The team will then incorporate feedback from the surveys and disseminate an updated version of the guidelines.
The group’s recent paper, Development of Guidelines to Improve the Effectiveness of Community Advisory Boards in Health Research, published in Progress in Community Health Partnerships: Research, Education and Action, describes how the guidelines were developed in greater detail.
Environmental Health Infographics and Plain Language Research Summaries
The HERCULES Exposome Research Center’s Community Engagement Core at Emory University creates infographics and short plain-language summaries of research of interest to the local community. Two new infographics were recently published on do-it-yourself alternatives, including cleaning products and personal care products. The infographics provide recipes for creating products such as shampoo, hand soap, air freshener, and carpet stain cleaner.
Research summaries touch on topics such as the relationship between air pollution and birth outcomes and promoting smoke-free homes. Summaries are organized into easy-to-understand sections such as “What did we do?” and “What does this mean for you?”
The resources are created with guidance from the Stakeholder Advisory Board and researchers to ensure they remain relevant to the community. The Board includes local residents, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and academic partners and ensures community concerns about environmental health issues are incorporated into research.
Call for Abstracts on Disasters, Infrastructure, and Community Science
The peer-reviewed journal Citizen Science: Theory and Practice seeks to advance citizen science with scholarly exchanges about engaging the public in science. A special issue on disaster, infrastructure, and participatory knowledge will be released in two phases in 2021, with abstract deadlines of August 16 and October 18. This special issue will focus on how physical, social, and digital infrastructure mediates community science responses to any type of disaster, including the COVID-19 pandemic.
Infrastructure influences whether community science translates participatory knowledge into lasting institutional changes. There are many empirical cases of disaster-related community science. However, there is a lack of analyses on interactions between community science and socio-technical infrastructure. Pertinent topics that probe the relationship between infrastructure and community science include learning from disaster community science to address inequalities in the COVID-19 response and determining how to make community science useful in crises or disaster preparedness plans. Read the full announcement.
Climate Change and Human Health Literature Portal
NIEHS launched their updated Climate Change and Human Health Literature Portal, a tool that combines a vast inventory of peer-reviewed scientific papers from around the world on the health impacts of climate change. NIEHS developed the portal to address concerns among academic and public health stakeholders that it was difficult to access relevant studies on climate change and health.
Several features maximize the portal’s utility. The portal includes literature directly relevant to human health from the biomedical, ecological, and geophysical sciences. Content is tagged with keywords that are organized by areas such as geographic location, exposure, and health impact. Additionally, the special topic filter allows users to find papers on crucial climate and health topics such as climate justice and population vulnerability.
NIH Releases Strategic Plan for COVID-19 Research
NIH released its COVID-19 strategic plan in July. It describes how NIH is rapidly mobilizing the biomedical research community through new programs to develop therapeutic interventions, vaccines, and diagnostics. The plan’s goals are to understand, prevent, detect and treat, and mitigate the threat of SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19.
The plan outlines five strategic priorities that include making investments to increase fundamental knowledge of SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19; speeding innovation in testing technologies; participating in public-private and federal partnerships to speed the identification, development, evaluation, and manufacturing of therapeutics and vaccines; supporting studies on preventive treatments and effective behavioral practices that promote safety; and ensuring that diagnosis, treatment, and prevention options are accessible and available for underserved and vulnerable populations.
Read the full strategic plan.
In our podcast on household chemicals, hear from Paul Blanc, M.D., a University of California, San Francisco researcher who focuses on toxic exposures and illness. Learn about the health impacts of some common household chemicals and how to protect your family.
PEPH Grantee Highlight
David Turcotte, Sc.D.
David Turcotte, Sc.D., helps families and workers reduce environmental health risks at home and at work. Turcotte has been doing community engagement work and mobilizing community partners around environmental health issues for over 35 years.
Turcotte is involved in several community-based organizations and efforts, such as the Massachusetts Asthma Action Partnership, the Lowell Healthy Homes Program, and The New England Consortium-Civil Service Employees Association, which is funded through the NIEHS Worker Training Program and delivers health and safety training for workers engaged in hazardous waste operations.
Provides an expedited funding mechanism as part of the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics for Underserved Populations initiative, a consortium of community-engaged research projects to understand factors that have led to disproportionate burden of the pandemic on underserved and/or vulnerable populations so that interventions can be implemented to decrease these disparities. This funding opportunity seeks to fund a single Coordination and Data Collection Center as an integral part of the consortium.
Deadline: August 7, 2020
This NOSI will support supplements to individual NIH research awards that include community collaborations or partnerships to support COVID-19 testing (or have the capacity to ramp up quickly) to reach underserved and/or COVID-19 vulnerable populations. The NOSI highlights the urgent need to understand and address COVID-19 morbidity and mortality disparities among underserved and vulnerable populations across the United States. These two-year community-engaged Testing Research Projects will examine SARS-CoV-2 infection patterns and efforts to increase access and effectiveness of diagnostic methods through the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics for Underserved Populations (RADx-UP) initiative. The overarching goal is to understand factors that have led to disproportionate burden of the pandemic on these underserved populations so that interventions can be implemented to decrease these disparities. Collectively, projects funded under these notices will serve as one consortium of interlinked community-engaged research projects across the United States to understand COVID-19 health disparities, and to deploy implementation strategies to improve the reach, acceptance, uptake, and sustainability of COVID-19 testing.
Deadline: August 7, 2020 or September 8, 2020
Highlights the urgent need to understand the social, ethical, and behavioral implications of COVID-19 testing among underserved and/or vulnerable populations across the United States through the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics for Underserved Populations (RADx-UP) initiative. The overarching goal is to understand factors that have led to disproportionate burden of the pandemic on these underserved populations so that interventions can be implemented to decrease these disparities. The purpose of this notice is to identify, analyze, and address the social, ethical, and behavioral factors likely to influence access and uptake of COVID-19 testing in underserved and/or vulnerable populations.
Deadline: August 7, 2020 or September 8, 2020
This NOSI will support supplements to NIH grantees that are part of large-scale networks, consortia, centers and other current programs that have adequate capacity, infrastructure, and established community-engaged relationships to support large-scale testing. The NOSI highlights the urgent need to understand and address COVID-19 morbidity and mortality disparities among underserved and vulnerable populations across the United States. These two-year community-engaged Testing Research Projects will examine SARS-CoV-2 infection patterns and efforts to increase access and effectiveness of diagnostic methods through the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics for Underserved Populations (RADx-UP) initiative. The overarching goal is to understand factors that have led to disproportionate burden of the pandemic on these underserved populations so that interventions can be implemented to decrease these disparities. Collectively, projects funded under these notices will serve as one consortium of interlinked community-engaged research projects across the United States to understand COVID-19 health disparities, and to deploy implementation strategies to improve the reach, acceptance, uptake, and sustainability of COVID-19 testing.
Deadline: August 7, 2020
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and NIEHS have special interest in applications aiming to investigate the impact of personal interventions to reduce exposure to particulate matter (PM) in air pollution on cardiovascular and pulmonary (cardiopulmonary) outcomes. This notice specifically encourages intervention studies or clinical trials that examine the efficacy of personal air pollution interventions to reduce the adverse cardiopulmonary effects of Particulate Matter (PM) less than 2.5 µm in diameter (PM2.5) in high risk or vulnerable participants. Personal level interventions are defined as approaches used to reduce an individual's PM2.5 exposure (from indoor and outdoor sources) and commonly include indoor portable air cleaners (PACs) and facemasks (e.g., N95 respirators). A growing body of evidence suggests that personal interventions can reduce exposure to PM2.5 and improve surrogate markers of cardiometabolic risk. However, while several strategies exist, the most relevant interventions feasibly implemented in large populations are understudied.
Deadline: October 5, 2020
Stimulates and promotes collaborative basic, translational, and clinical research between U.S.-based researchers and Indian researchers to gain a comprehensive understanding of the impacts of environmental insults on children and adults across all organ systems (e.g., pulmonary, cardiovascular, cancer, and neurological disorders). NIEHS and the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) are interested in supporting collaborative research and research training through joint U.S.-India partnerships that address or seek to understand how exposures to toxic environmental insults alter biologic processes and are linked to disease initiation, progression, or morbidity. To promote these collaborative efforts, the partnering U.S. and Indian investigators must work jointly to submit identical applications to NIH and ICMR, respectively.
Deadline: October 15, 2020
Supports research to advance our understanding of the impact of extreme weather and disaster events in aging human populations. This FOA (PAR-19-250) and its companion FOA (PAR-19-249), which focuses on underlying mechanisms of aging utilizing animal models, will help 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: November 9, 2020; March 8, 2021
Letter of Intent: Due 30 days prior to the application due date
Creates a national network of children's environmental health translation centers. Through external collaboration with the children's environmental health community, centers will protect and improve children’s health by developing and testing new scientific questions and public health interventions/strategies and by mentoring a pipeline of new investigators interested in translational children’s environmental health. These centers will serve as leaders in children’s environmental health translational research and research methodology development, with a focus on creating actionable steps to move evidence-informed biomedical, behavioral, psychosocial, environmental research findings in children's environmental health to the wider community. The collective collaborative center program will also serve as a national research resource to support response efforts to emerging environmental exposures affecting children.
Deadline: November 23, 2020
Letter of Intent: Due October 23, 2020
Supports research education activities that complement and/or enhance the training of a workforce to meet the nation’s biomedical, behavioral, and clinical research needs. The intent of this FOA is to encourage applications to develop and conduct short-term research education activities with the goal of improving knowledge and skills needed to conduct environmental health research. Short courses submitted under this FOA are expected to include relevant intensive hands-on training in environmental health science topics. In addition to in-person instruction, courses that incorporate innovative or novel education models, such as project-based learning or virtual instruction, are encouraged.
Deadline: November 30, 2020
Letter of Intent: Due 30 days prior to the application due date
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.
Supports research to test community interventions focused on the prevention (or slowing) of COVID-19 transmission, evaluate local and state policies and programs intended to mitigate COVID-19 exposure and improve adherence, and reduce the negative impact of the multifaceted consequences on the health of populations who experience health disparities and other vulnerable groups. This may include leveraging and scaling existing resources (e.g., health education materials, technology, social media, mass media, social support networks, social services). In domains and populations in which the evidence base is limited, the development, testing, and implementation of novel or adapted interventions to address the negative health consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic may also be needed to address the unique needs of populations.
Deadline: On a rolling basis through December 15, 2020
NIEHS-funded researchers find that pregnant women who lived close to wells in rural areas were more likely to have smaller babies.
Jason West described how unchecked greenhouse gas emissions could reduce air quality and intensify hurricanes.
New findings from the Agricultural Health Study suggest exposure to certain pesticides may increase risk of renal cell carcinoma.
Young workers in Egypt who apply pesticides adopted safer practices after low-cost intervention.
Upcoming PEPH-Related Events
JunFrom Research to Implementation: A Community Partnership Improves Air Quality Near Metal Recycling Plants
MarBuilding Community Capacity for Sustainability: Monitoring Air Quality Along the U.S.-Mexico Border
Dec"Know Better Live Better" Social Impact Campaign Engages African-American Women in Environmental Health
FebCommunity-University Partnership Reveals Ongoing Contamination of Alaska Native Villages and the Environment