The Community Engagement Core was established to facilitate meaningful bidirectional communication and interactions among the Baylor-Rice SRP’s internal and external stakeholders. The core will develop and adapt best practices to work with residents and local leaders of affected communities to facilitate prevention and intervention strategies that will result in community-level reductions in exposure to PAHs and other Superfund site pollutants.
We will build upon and expand our existing environmental health network for engagement and outreach including community groups and members, academic partners, industry representatives, community representatives, environmental and public health practitioners, and local policy-makers. With Baylor-Rice SRP investigators, we will develop a transdisciplinary research team representing health and social sciences, engineering, and medicine who will work with community experts to develop new knowledge about factors influencing exposure, which will in turn foster establishment of effective prevention and intervention strategies to reduce exposures. We have assembled a leadership team with deep ties to the affected communities, each of whom brings complementary skills, experience, and collaborators to the CEC.
- Utilize new and existing multi-directional communication strategies to increase investigator and community capacity for collaborating to reduce exposures to PAHs and other Superfund contaminants. These activities will engage community partners in informing Center directions and programs, identify environmental health concerns and potential mitigation strategies, and establish venues for discussion of relevant environmental health information among stakeholders. Initiatives such as an EJ “Encuentro” and Community Science Workshops (CSWs) will afford multi-directional communications opportunities to share ideas, concerns, and exposure and risk assessment research data, outputs, and implications.
- Assist and support Baylor-Rice SRP Research Project and Core community-engagement activities. Through community forums and a robust Stakeholder Advisory Board (SAB), we will provide substantial support for each of the specific Superfund research projects and other project cores. The CEC will assist researchers in meeting the community engagement needs and requirements of each project and core, utilizing neighborhood forums, the Encuentro, CSWs, and the SAB as resources.
- Support community projects to reduce exposures to Superfund PAHs such as educational interventions for pregnant women through our clinic partners, well water screening and water replacement activities, soil testing and community gardening activities and instruction to prevent exposure to harmful chemicals, and fish consumption education programs, which offer safe and healthy alternatives to consumption of contaminated local fish. We will work especially closely with Drs. Halas and Alvarez to demonstrate cutting-edge identification and remediation practices for PAHs in our target neighborhoods. We will also closely collaborate with Dr. Aagaard on development of prenatal education programming.
- Rigorously evaluate engagement activities, processes, and outcomes, including changes in perceptions, capacity, literacy, and knowledge for both investigators and community participants, and disseminate best practices at regional and national levels.
The focus of the Baylor-Rice SRP on PAHs is both important and timely. While much effort has focused on outreach related to dioxins and PCBs, little engagement has focused on exposure to and the impact of PAHs associated with the Superfund sites—especially among vulnerable populations most susceptible to PAH effects including preterm birth and susceptibility to chronic respiratory and
neurodegenerative diseases. We will thus target those stakeholders most likely to benefit most from understanding the scientific processes and results of the research projects associated with the Superfund Program.