Connecting communities to environmental health research.
The University of Cincinnati’s Department of Environmental Health, Center for Environmental Genetics (CEG) Community Outreach and Engagement Core (COEC) works to translate environmental health science into useable health promotion, disease prevention information, and tools and resources for community members, public health decision-makers, and health care professionals.
How do we benefit the community?
Funded by the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), the COEC is particularly interested in engaging populations, including minority and underserved communities, that are affected by environmental contaminants and exposures. Because these populations are at a greater risk of being affected by environmental exposures, the COEC works to reach out to these groups. By communicating environmental health findings and translating CEG research to the community, the COEC ensures that scientific research does not remain confined to science labs.
The UC COEC has been at the forefront of environmental health science, forming academic-community partnerships to address issues identified by the community related to air exposure to manganese and other metals, slurries of chemicals from the world’s largest hazardous waste incinerator, and hydraulic fracturing. We also provide outreach to physicians and health care professionals through workshops, seminars, and development of online educational modules for Continuing Medical Education (CME) and Continuing Nursing Education (CNE). The COEC is innovatively applying community-based participatory research (CBPR) in the “transdisciplinary classroom” by developing cross-training opportunities for students in journalism and environmental health science.
As the COEC increases community members’ awareness of environmental health and the specific issues that face particular communities, members can then become more actively involved in advocating for the health of themselves, their families, and their communities.
Where did we get our foundation?
The COEC has a long history of responding to the initiatives of NIEHS. We hosted one of the first NIEHS Town Hall meetings in 1999. Former COEC Director, Dr. Kathryn Brown’s In My Back Yard (IMBY) program was a product of this meeting. Launched with funding from the Department of Environmental Health and the CEG, IMBY’s mission was to build community partnerships to assess, address, and improve environmental and public health issues through improved access to resources, capacity building, and advocacy. IMBY partnered with the Fernald Community Health Effects Committee, resulting in the development of the Fernald Medical Monitoring program whose cohort continues under the stewardship of Dr. Susan Pinney. The COEC also initiated the outreach component of the Breast Cancer and the Environmental Research Centers (BCERC).