Outreach and engagement
As the public outreach arm of the UNC-Chapel Hill Center for Environmental Health and Susceptibility, the Community Outreach and Engagement Core (COEC) translates Center research into knowledge that can be used to improve public health across North Carolina and the United States. The COEC also actively strives to build its capacity to educate the community about how individual and group susceptibilities interact with environmental factors to cause disease.
Through collaboration with members of the CEHS Pulmonary Disease research group and the Stakeholder Advisory Board, the COEC provides the following tools to inform public health professionals and the public about air pollution and health:
- A 1- to 2-hour interactive workshop for community audiences that explores the connection between asthma, allergies and air quality.
- A 3-hour train-the-trainer session for public health professionals, which provides activities and materials that can be used with patients addressing asthma.
- An asthma awareness public service announcement (PSA) produced by the CEHS Community Outreach and Engagement Core (COEC) and the UNC School of Journalism.
In collaboration with members of the CEHS Environmental Cancer research group and the Stakeholder Advisory Board, the COEC has developed the following tools to inform women about breast cancer risk and ways to reduce risk:
- A 1- to 2-hour interactive workshop that provides hands-on activities and educational materials about genetic and environmental influences on breast cancer.
- A web site that highlights African American women’s breast cancer risk by leading women through a series of questions about breast cancer risk and suggesting preventive measures. It also includes videos of younger African American women discussing breast cancer and is a joint effort with the UNC Breast Cancer and the Environment Research Program (BCERP).
The COEC works with the CEHS Pulmonary Disease and Metals-Induced research groups, as well as national and state health and housing agencies, to develop and provide the following trainings that inform professionals and the public about hazards that exist in homes:
- A 2-hour interactive workshop for community audiences that gives an overview of hazards in homes that affect human health.
- A 3-hour train-the-trainer session for health and housing professionals that prepares them to conduct outreach with community audiences about common health hazards that exist in homes.
- A 7-hour training, certified by the National Center for Healthy Housing, which informs community health workers who make home visits and provide advice to residents about hazards that exist in their homes.
In addition, the COEC partnered with Morehead Planetarium and Science Center to develop the curriculum for “Our Air, Our Water, Our Homes,” for the 2013 SciVentures summer camp. Participants in this week-long summer camp learned about the spread of contaminants in communities and homes and ways to prevent them through hands-on activities and experiences.
The COEC collaborates with investigators in the CEHS Obesity research group and our community partners to develop and provide the following trainings about genetic and environmental influences upon obesity and steps they can take to prevent it:
- A 1- to 2-hour interactive workshop for community audiences, which includes hands-on activities and educational materials that explain obesity risk and suggest preventive measures.
- A 3-hour train-the-trainer session that provides presentation slides, lessons for hands-on activities, and educational materials for public health professionals and informal educators who work with youth and/or adult community audiences.
High-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing (HVHF, often referred to as “hydrofracking” or “fracking”) is a drilling technology in which water mixed with sand and chemicals is injected into drilled wells to enhance the extraction of natural gas from deep shale formations. This technique has vastly increased the potential for domestic natural gas production, and has been promoted as a way to decrease dependence on foreign energy sources, replace dirtier energy sources like coal, and generate new jobs and economic development. However, the rapid expansion of shale gas extraction has resulted in documented impacts on human health and raised concerns about long-term, cumulative, and intergenerational impacts on individuals and communities. Research is ongoing to determine how human health, particularly that of vulnerable populations such as children and low-income rural populations, might be negatively impacted.
The UNC-CH COEC staff has partnered with colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania, University of Cincinnati and University of Rochester to assess community information needs and understand the factors that affect the public’s perception of risk related to shale gas extraction. The following projects have been funded through supplemental grants by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS):
- 2012: “Health and Hydrofracking: Comparative Assessment of Community Information Needs”
- 2013: “Risk Perception about Hydraulic Fracturing in Eastern States”
The UNC COEC collaborated with colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania to develop the following resources for NIEHS:
- Podcast: A Second Look at the Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing
- Factsheet: Hydraulic Fracturing and Health
Several Centers funded by the NIEHS to work on projects related to shale gas extraction formed a working group to review the literature on the potential public health impacts of HVHF and to make recommendations for needed research. These recommendations can be found in “Environmental Health Research Recommendations from the Inter-Environmental Health Sciences Core Center Working Group on Unconventional Natural Gas Drilling Operations,” published in Environmental Health Perspectives in July 2014.
In addition, the UNC COEC collaborated with University of Cincinnati to conduct a community information needs assessment in order to integrate community leaders’ knowledge, perceptions, and concerns into the research agenda prior to initiation of local unconventional natural gas development. A summary of the assessment and its implications can be found in “Unconventional natural gas development and public health: toward a community-informed research agenda,” published in Reviews in Environmental Health in April 2015.
With supplemental funding from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences to support the project titled ““Oncogenic BRAF Puts Developing Nevi at Risk,” the COEC staff works with investigators in the CEHS Environmental Cancer research group and community partners to develop educational materials and conduct the following resources, aimed at informing the public about risk factors for skin cancer and steps for reducing risk:
- A 1- to 2-hour train-the-trainer session, conducted by CEHS researchers and COEC staff, which builds the capacity of public health professionals, school nurses and childcare providers to educate community audiences about skin cancer risk and sun safety techniques.
- A public service announcement (PSA) that highlights steps people of all backgrounds should take to reduce exposure to UV radiation and their risk for skin cancer.
- A one-hour webinar titled “Childhood Sun Damage and Melanoma Risk: Understanding the Environmental Health Research and Clinical Application” in which a cancer researcher and a pediatric dermatologist discuss the latest research on childhood sun damage, melanoma risk, and how this research can be applied in clinical and educational settings to protect children and youth from this disease into their adulthood. The recorded webinar is now available for viewing.
Kathleen Gray, MSPH; Environmental Resource Program, UNC Institute for the Environment
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: (919) 966-9799
Neasha Graves, MPA; Environmental Resource Program, UNC Institute for the Environment
Email: email@example.com Phone: (919) 966-3746
Megan Hoert Hughes, MEM; Environmental Resource Program, UNC Institute for the Environment
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: (919) 966-2463
Kelly Burns, BA; Environmental Resource Program, UNC Institute for the Environment
Email: email@example.com Phone: (919) 966-7238