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Your Environment. Your Health.

Bridging the Cultural Divide: The Role of Community Health Representatives/Workers in Environmental Public Health

Partnerships for Environmental Public Health (PEPH)

March 2, 2018

A handshake in black and white

Community health workers (CHWs) and community health representatives (CHRs) play an instrumental role in community-engaged research. These frontline public health workers are often trusted members of partner communities and serve as liaisons between researchers and local residents. Bridging the cultural divide is a major contribution of CHWs/CHRs. They enable researchers and health professionals to better understand the concerns and needs of the residents, as well as the cultural contexts important to the project. Similarly, CHWs/CHRs provide community members with information about the research process and findings so they can be better engaged in research activities. In this webinar, we heard from two project teams that have worked closely with CHWs/CHRs in the conduct of community-engaged research. Each presentation included a research lead and a CHW/CHR. They discussed the value and importance of working with CHWs/CHRs to address environmental public health issues.



Maureen Lichtveld, M.D., M.P.H.

Maureen Lichtveld, M.D., M.P.H., is a member of the National Academy of Medicine, has over 35 years of experience in environmental public health, and is professor and chair of the Department of Global Environmental Health Sciences at Tulane University’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. She holds an endowed chair in environmental policy and is associate director of population sciences for the Louisiana Cancer Research Consortium. Her research focuses on environmentally induced disease, health disparities, environmental health policy, disaster preparedness, public health systems, and community resilience.

Huyen Tran

Huyen Tran, is a member of the program staff of Vietnamese Initiatives in Economic Training (VIET). VIET was created in 2001 to develop educational and economic training programs and to act as a resource center for minority residents in Louisiana. VIET helps to mainstream non-English speaking communities into U.S. society and to bridge the gap as it relates to cultural and language barriers.

Paloma Beamer, Ph.D.

Paloma Beamer, Ph.D., is an environmental engineer by training and earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley and her master’s and doctoral degrees from Stanford University. She is currently an associate professor in the University of Arizona’s College of Public Health. Her research focuses on understanding how individuals are exposed to environmental contaminants and the health risks of these exposures, with a special focus on vulnerable populations, including children, low-wage immigrant workers, Native Americans, and those in the U.S.-Mexico Border Region. Dr. Beamer is also president-elect of the International Society of Exposure Science.

Mae-Gilene Begay, M.S.W.

Mae-Gilene Begay, M.S.W., directs the Navajo Nation’s Community Health Representative / Outreach Program and is the past chair of the American Public Health Association’s Community Health Worker Section. She collaborates with universities and agencies to address health issues impacting the Navajo Nation, such as in the Birth Cohort Study and the Gold King Mine Spill Diné Exposure Study.

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