New Story Map Shows COVID-19 Disparities Along Racial and Ethnic Lines
A new interactive story map developed by NIEHS-funded researchers sheds light on how certain Los Angeles communities are faring in the COVID-19 pandemic. By combining Census Bureau data and measures of pollution burden and population vulnerability, the tool visualizes the overlap between COVID-19 and environmental health factors. Picturing these relationships is an important step in fully understanding and eliminating health disparities.
The map was developed by researchers at the Maternal and Developmental Risks from Environmental and Social Stressors (MADRES) Center for Environmental Health Disparities, which studies how health disparities, chemical exposures, and social stressors affect pregnant women and their infants. The new map, along with downloadable and easy-to-understand infographics, are part of the MADRES Center’s efforts to improve environmental health literacy in communities that experience health disparities. Their ultimate goal is to translate findings into individual- and policy-level solutions to reduce or eliminate environmental health disparities.
The mapping effort was led by Rima Habre, Sc.D., an environmental health researcher at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine and director of the MADRES Center’s Exposure Core.
“We envision this map being used not only to inform our research and outreach efforts to our already-vulnerable populations, but also to help public health and health disparities researchers get a better idea of the complex interplay between socioeconomic factors, environmental exposures, the built environment, and COVID-19,” said Habre. “The tool can provide policymakers and community leaders with data to inform policies and public health efforts during and after the pandemic.”
The tool also shows COVID-19 testing sites, residential housing density, and the percent of workers who rely on public transit. The map is fully interactive, allowing users to read pop-up information and click on locations to get more details about pollution, COVID-19, housing density, and public transit usage. The story map ends with a list of resources, including information on COVID-19 and pregnancy.
Habre said the map was inspired by a Massachusetts data dashboard developed by her Boston University colleagues at the Center for Research on Environmental and Social Stressors in Housing Across the Life Course to show population vulnerability during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We see patterns emerging with COVID-19 that are similar to the disparities along racial and ethnic lines with environmental exposures, susceptibility, and health outcomes,” said Habre. “We built this story map to show how these factors overlap in the neighborhoods of MADRES participants.”
The MADRES Center’s COVID-19 story map builds off the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment’s CalEnviroScreen tool, which identifies California communities that are most affected by pollution and that are especially vulnerable to pollution’s effects. Through a formula that accounts for both pollution burden and population factors (such as sensitive populations and socioeconomic factors including poverty, linguistic isolation, and low-income households), results are graphically displayed on maps for easy comparison between neighborhoods.
“The CalEnviroScreen tool does a great job of depicting the geographical spread of environmental and population susceptibility factors that contribute to health disparities. The mapping tool presents layers of data in a visual, appealing way,” said Habre. “We wanted to capitalize on that – we wanted to see what relationships exist between our MADRES communities, COVID-19, environmental health disparities, and community risks factors. This graphical representation of the many factors that impact health is an important tool to understand and eliminate health disparities.”
How the MADRES Center’s Story Map is Being Used
MADRES researchers will use the maps to learn more about predictors of disparities in health outcomes in mothers and their babies. In addition to formal research, the maps are useful in community outreach efforts. A recent newsletter sent to MADRES cohort participants incorporated the story maps, along with strategies for reducing exposure to COVID-19 and resources for families affected by the pandemic. This type of outreach is critical because early survey results indicated that a majority of MADRES families are experiencing serious economic, social, and emotional effects due to the pandemic.
About the MADRES Center and the MADRES Cohort
For the last five years, MADRES Center researchers have focused on the link between environmental exposures and maternal and infant weight in low-income populations. Their research now includes risk factors associated with maternal depression, cardiovascular risk, and overall stress burden in the postpartum years. The MADRES Center established a large, prospective pregnancy cohort of lower income, predominantly Hispanic women in Los Angeles by working with academic, clinical, and community partners. MADRES participants live in neighborhoods with increased susceptibility factors such as poverty, unemployment, linguistic isolation, and housing burden that make them more vulnerable to the impacts of harmful pollutants. The Community Engagement Core ensures that research findings are disseminated to the community and that community knowledge is incorporated into research priorities. Read more about the MADRES cohort study.
Environmental Health Perspectives Journal Creates Curated Environmental Racism Collection
The journal Environmental Health Perspectives recently published the Environmental Racism Collection: Exposure and Health Inequities in Black Americans, a curated collection of different types of articles that shines a light on racism as both a social determinant of health and public health crisis.
Environmental racism concentrates disadvantaged populations in compromised communities where hazardous exposures are more likely. For example, as a result of discriminatory policies and practices, polluting facilities such as landfills and chemical plants are more likely to be near minority neighborhoods.
Covering a variety of exposures and health outcomes, the articles illuminate ongoing repercussions of past discriminatory actions, including a disproportionate burden of hazardous exposures in Black communities and higher rates of chronic diseases.
Researchers are encouraged to submit to the journal their manuscripts on environmental racism, including health inequities, exposures and outcomes, potential interventions, and mitigation activities.
NIEHS Establishes Annual Event to Recognize Environmental Health Scientists from Underrepresented Groups
NIEHS recently established an annual event to recognize and celebrate environmental health and environmental justice scientists from underrepresented groups. The annual event will consist of a scientific lecture, a dinner, and a daylong visit to NIEHS. During the visit, the speaker will meet with trainees, including those from underrepresented groups, and staff from each division to discuss diversity and shared professional interests.
The lecture is named in honor of Kenneth Olden, Ph.D., who will give the inaugural lecture virtually in September. Olden served as the NIEHS and NTP director from 1991 to 2005. During his tenure at NIEHS, he championed the work of minority researchers and established programs in environmental justice and environmental health disparities that continue today. He later founded the City University of New York School of Public Health at Hunter College and led the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency National Center for Environmental Assessment.
Trevor Archer, Ph.D., head of the NIEHS Epigenetics and Stem Cell Biology Laboratory, chairs the speaker selection committee, in recognition of his support for equity for scientists and staff from underrepresented minority groups at the institute.
Environmental Health Perspectives Journal is Recruiting a Science Editor
The science editor serves as a science adviser to the editor-in-chief, and works closely with teams of other editors, who are recognized experts in the core environmental health disciplines, including human physiology and disease, exposure science, epidemiology, toxicology, and environmental health.
The candidate will work with the entire EHP team on activities related to scientific content, peer review management, outreach and communications, publication policies, and journal practices. The science editor will also evaluate manuscripts focused on human observational studies, actively participate in developing and implementing journal policies, and serve as a key ambassador to the environmental epidemiology community to encourage high-quality, scholarly contributions.
Read the full job description on the EHP site.
Student Training Program for Health Disparities Research Now Accepting Applications
The Break the Cycle of Health Disparities, Inc. consortium addresses the health, environmental, socio-economic, and ecological disparities of health for children who live in communities with adverse social and economic conditions.
One of the organization’s programs, Break the Cycle, is a research and training program that partners university faculty with graduate and undergraduate students who are studying the impact of environmental factors on children’s health. The program is now accepting applications for its 16th annual training program. Applications are due September 30, 2020.
To apply, students work with academic mentors from their respective university programs to submit a project proposal. Students whose proposals are selected will work with Break the Cycle faculty and other students to complete their projects and present their findings at an annual conference in 2021. Read the full call for applications.
PFAS Workshop Proceedings Now Available
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine held the first of several workshops about per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) last fall. The workshop is part of the Environmental Health Matters Initiative, which facilitates multisector, multidisciplinary exchange around complex environmental health challenges.
The workshop’s title was Understanding, Controlling, and Preventing Exposure to PFAS, and it brought together experts from government, communities, academia, and the private sector, who shared their perspectives through presentations and moderated discussions. The workshop focused on human exposure to PFAS and opportunities for reducing exposures to the chemicals, rather than the health effects of PFAS exposure. The goal of the workshop was to elicit suggestions for concrete actions for various sectors to advance the understanding of the extent of human exposure to PFAS and to reduce or prevent PFAS exposure. The proceedings of the workshop are now available.
In our podcast on mapping environmental health, hear from Michael Jerrett, Ph.D., as he discusses how geographic information systems (GIS) and other spatial methods can be used to study environmental exposures and help researchers and communities communicate risk. The podcast also covers how mapping technologies can improve our understanding of global environmental health.
PEPH Grantee Highlight
Madeleine Scammell, D.Sc.
Madeleine Scammell, D.Sc., focuses on community-driven and community-based participatory research. Dr. Scammell also directs the Community Engagement Cores of two research centers: The Boston University Superfund Research Center and the Center for Research on Social and Environmental Stressors in Housing Across the Life Course.
Dr. Scammell works with community partners to empower residents who live near Superfund sites to reduce exposure to contaminants and co-developed a Health Studies Guide, which helps community groups determine whether an environmental health study may be useful in their community.
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: 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: September 8, 2020
Supports wastewater-based testing (WBT) surveillance which can provide detailed mapping of the extent and spread of COVID-19. Wastewater testing has been shown to be orders of magnitude cheaper and faster than clinical screening. The purpose of this FOA is to solicit cooperative agreements both for field studies and for small business research and development projects in the field of WBT, to address topics such as: investigation and demonstration of specific approaches aiming to increase sensitivity and to inform and optimize sample collection; implementation and development of optimized approaches to extrapolate estimation of population-level data within the community; development of optimized intervention strategies; and incorporation of computational, statistical, and mathematical models.
Deadline: September 15, 2020
Seeks to fund a single cooperative agreement for a Data Coordination Center (DCC) to serve as a communication center and data hub for RADx-rad awardees. RADx-rad will support new, or non-traditional applications of existing approaches, to enhance their usability, accessibility, and/or accuracy. RADx-rad will be centrally aligned and coordinated to harmonize the data collection, storage, and management, providing an opportunity to further explore and identify additional approaches to understand this novel virus. The RADx-rad DCC will provide overarching support and guidance to RADx-rad awardees in the following three areas: (1) Administrative Operations and Logistics, (2) Data Collection, Integration and Sharing, and (3) Data Management and Use.
Deadline: September 30, 2020
Addresses the urgent need for mission-relevant research to understand the impact of environmental exposures on Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) and its causative agent, the virus SARS-Cov-2. NIEHS is particularly interested in applications that will provide insight into the role of environmental exposures in pathogenicity, transmission, individual susceptibility, or prevention and intervention strategies. Examples of environmental exposures relevant to the NIEHS mission include: toxic chemicals, air pollutants, second hand tobacco smoke, e-cigarette vapors, metals, and other environmental chemical exposures that may impact health outcomes. NIEHS is accepting applications addressing COVID-19 through the administrative supplement, urgent competitive revision, and time-sensitive mechanisms.
Deadlines: October 1, 2020; November 2, 2020; December 1, 2020; January 4, 2021; February 1, 2021; March 1, 2021; April 1, 2021; May 3, 2021
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
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
Fosters and promotes early-stage transdisciplinary collaborations and/or translational research efforts among fundamental (technology and mechanism oriented), clinical (patient-oriented) and population-based researchers in the environmental health field. The collaborative teams will come together in common interest to investigate potential linkages between human health and one or more environmental stressor(s). The ViCTER program is intended to support innovative high-risk, high-reward cross-disciplinary and/or translational research projects that are more difficult to achieve in a typical R01 application. Collaboration among investigators at different institutions through a virtual consortium arrangement are encouraged.
Deadline: December 1, 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
Year-long research project seeks much-needed information about antibodies from SARS-CoV-2 infection.
Outreach by University of Washington Superfund Research Program includes a new history of the river and educational videos on safe fishing.
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