Partnerships for Environmental Public Health (PEPH)

January 27, 2022 • 1:00 - 2:00 p.m. ET

Male and female standing in the street talking about community planning
A Community Health Worker (Promotora) with Esperanza Community Housing informs residents about a health study near an urban drill site in LA. Photo courtesy of Sandy Navarro, LAGrit Media.

A community health worker is a frontline public health worker who is a trusted member of and/or has an unusually close understanding of the community served, as defined by the American Public Health Association. This trusting relationship enables the worker to serve as a liaison, link, or intermediary between health and social services and the community. This linkage facilitates access to services and improves the quality and cultural competence of service delivery. A community health worker also builds individual and community capacity by increasing health knowledge and self-sufficiency through a range of activities such as outreach, community education, informal counseling, social support, and advocacy. In the context of environmental health research, community health workers can foster trusting relationships between researchers and the community residents and ensure that research and communication approaches are culturally appropriate.

During this webinar we heard two co-presentations about NIEHS-funded projects where academics are partnering with community health workers to address local environmental health issues.



Sandra Serrano

Sandra Serrano has been a Promotora de Salud (community health worker) since 2006. She has worked with her community on many projects, including some focused on environmental justice, specifically the health impacts of oil drilling and air pollution. She graduated from the Promotora program at Esperanza Community Housing Corporation and has received certifications in leading workshops on mental health, workers' rights, and access to healthcare, which has allowed her to increase community access to resources and education. She has gained experience in community outreach to meet the specific needs of each project, while practicing empathy, respect, and trust with the communities she works with.

Jill Johnston

Jill Johnston, Ph.D., is an assistant professor and Director of Community Engagement in the Division of Environmental Health at the University of Southern California. Her research focuses on addressing unequal exposures to harmful contaminants that affect the health of the working poor and communities of color. She works towards strong partnership with local organizations, community health promotoras, policymakers, and residents to address issues of air pollution, upstream oil and gas extraction, and incompatible land use. Johnston received her doctorate in environmental sciences and engineering from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Mitchel Rosen

Mitchel Rosen, Ph.D., is the director of the Center for Public Health Workforce Development and an associate professor in the Rutgers School of Public Health, Urban and Global Public Health Department. He received his Master of Science degree from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in Public Health Education and his Ph.D. from the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University. Rosen is the principal investigator of several programs, including the Atlantic Center for Occupational Health and Safety Training (funded by NIEHS), the Continuing and Outreach Education Program for the New York-New Jersey Education and Research Center (funded by NIOSH), the Local Performance Site in New Jersey for the HHS Region 2 Public Health Training Center (funded by HRSA). Rosen’s interests include workforce development issues for public health professionals, specifically in the concentrations of occupational health and safety, public health capacity development, and emergency preparedness. Rosen develops capacity for vulnerable populations to provide safety and health education in their native language. His research focuses on the impact of training on workplace practice.

Maiber Solarte

Maiber Solarte coordinates community health worker training at Make the Road New York. She is a licensed master social worker who migrated from Colombia in 2004. Since then, she has worked as an advocate, educator, clinician, and care coordinator for individuals, families, and under-served communities in New York City.


Webinar Resources

Harnessing the Expertise of Community Health Workers for Environmental Health Research

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