Outreach and engagement
The UNC-CEHS Community Outreach and Engagement Core (COEC) enhances the environmental health literacy of public health professionals, community health workers and vulnerable populations, by increasing their understanding of the Center’s environmental health sciences research and empowering them to make informed decisions to reduce harmful environmental exposures in homes and communities. The COEC also fosters dialogue between UNC-CEHS researchers and community partners about Center research to inform responsive research approaches and strategies for communicating CEHS science to community audiences.
More than 1 million North Carolina adult and youth residents have been diagnosed with asthma. It is the most common chronic disease among children causing school absences.
Through collaboration with members of the UNC-CEHS Cardiopulmonary Disease Research Focus Area 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 3-hour train-the-trainer session for public health professionals, which provides activities and materials that can be used with patients addressing asthma.
A 1- to 2-hour interactive workshop for community audiences that explores the connection between asthma, allergies and air quality.
An asthma awareness public service announcement (PSA) produced by the COEC and the UNC School of Journalism.
More than 200,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year in the United States. As the second leading cause of cancer deaths among women, this disease takes 40,000 lives annually.
In collaboration with members of the UNC-CEHS Environmental Cancer Research Focus Area 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 website that highlights African American women’s breast cancer risk, featuring a survey to self-assess personal risk factors, resources on the risk factors and preventive measures, and videos of younger African American women discussing breast cancer. The site development was a joint effort between the COEC, UNC-CEHS researchers, the UNC Breast Cancer and the Environment Research Program (BCERP), and the UNC School of Information and Library Science with funding from NIEHS BCERP.
Approximately two-thirds of U.S. families live in a home with at least one health hazard. This problem is compounded with most small children spending 70% of their day inside their homes.
The COEC works with the UNC-CEHS Cardiopulmonary Disease and Developmental Disease Research Focus Areas, 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 3-hour train-the-trainer session for health and housing professionals that prepares them to conduct outreach with community audiences on common health hazards existing in homes.
A 6-hour training, approved by the National Healthy Homes Training Center and Network, which informs community health workers who make home visits and provide advice to residents about hazards that exist in their homes.
A 2-hour interactive workshop for community audiences that gives an overview of hazards in homes that affect human health.
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.
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, may be impacted.
The UNC-CEHS 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 projects were funded through supplemental grants by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and resulted in the development of the following resources for NIEHS:
A podcast featuring Dr. Trevor Penning from the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine and UNC-CEHS COEC director Kathleen Gray, who discuss how our understanding of the impacts of fracking has evolved over the past few years.
A factsheet about hydraulic fracturing and the potential health risks for people living near drilling sites.
A public radio program in which a panel of experts discuss fracking in North Carolina.
The UNC-CEHS COEC and other Centers 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 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.
- Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): Hydraulic Fracturing
Skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States, with more than two million people diagnosed each year.
With supplemental funding from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the COEC staff partnered with investigators in the UNC-CEHS Environmental Cancer Research Focus Area and community partners to develop the following resources, aimed at informing the public about risk factors for skin cancer and steps for reducing risk:
A one-hour webinar titled “Childhood Sun Damage and Melanoma Risk: Understanding the Environmental Health Research and Clinical Application” in which a cancer researcher, Dr. Bill Kaufmann, and a pediatric dermatologist, Dr. Diana McShane, 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.
A 1- to 2-hour train-the-trainer session, conducted by UNC-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.
In addition, the COEC partnered with Morehead Planetarium and Science Center to develop the curriculum for “Journey Inside the Cell,” for the 2014 SciVentures summer camp. Participants in this week-long summer camp learned about the hidden lives of cells through hands-on learning experiences.
Kathleen Gray, MSPH; Environmental Resource Program, UNC Institute for the Environment
Email: email@example.com Phone: (919) 966-9799
Neasha Graves, MPA; Environmental Resource Program, UNC Institute for the Environment
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: (919) 966-3746
Dana Haine, MS; Environmental Resource Program, UNC Institute for the Environment
Email: email@example.com Phone: (919) 843-5735
Megan Hoert Hughes, MEM; Environmental Resource Program, UNC Institute for the Environment
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: (919) 966-2463
Megan Rodgers, BS; Environmental Resource Program, UNC Institute for the Environment
Email: email@example.com Phone: (919) 966-7238