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Town Meetings

NIEHS town meeting

The NIEHS sponsors Town Meetings in cities throughout the United States on the general theme of environmental impacts on human health. The purpose of the town meetings is to bring together members of the public who are interested in public health and the environment with NIEHS and other federal, state, and local government health officials; environmental health professionals; and disease and environmental advocacy groups. The meetings provide a platform for an open dialogue to establish better coordination among the public and health professionals working on community exposures, industrial exposures, and other environmental issues. These meetings also provide an opportunity to promote local and state media coverage of environmental health issues to broaden public understanding. Many of these town meetings are organized in collaboration with NIEHS Environmental Health Sciences Centers and Superfund Centers at universities around the country who carry out cutting edge research to better understand the most pressing and key environmental problems of the nation, and how best to solve them.


John Schelp
Office of Science Policy
Tel (919) 541-5723

Dr. Wilson
Wilson underscored the NIEHS commitment to producing the solid science to underpin good policy and regulatory efforts to impact environmental public health. He spoke against the backdrop of a wall of quilts celebrating the struggles of slaves seeking freedom through the Underground Railroad. (Photo courtesy of the University of Cincinnati)

Seated participants listen to speakers.
Martin, right foreground, and Schelp, on her left in dark jacket, joined participants as they listened to the keynote speakers. (Photo courtesy of the University of Cincinnati)

Driehaus, Ho and Wilson
Following their introductory remarks, from left to right, Driehaus, Ho and Wilson pose in front of a mural featuring scenes from the Underground Railroad. (Photo courtesy of the University of Cincinnati)

Last Town Meeting

Cincinnati Town Meeting
Your Home, Your Health
September 15, 2008
Freedom Center, Cincinnati, OH
Hosted by the University of Cincinnati

The September 15 town hall meeting, "Your Home, Your Health, Your Voice," was about empowerment for individuals dealing with environmental exposures, and it was held appropriately in a monument to empowerment during extreme adversity, the Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. The meeting was jointly sponsored by NIEHS and the University of Cincinnati (UC) Center for Environmental Genetics (CEG). The event featured talks by experts at UC to help residents understand better the exposures they face each day and to offer practical ideas about how individuals can improve aspects of their health related to those exposures.

Welcoming attendees to the day-long event were CEG Director Shuk-mei Ho, Ph.D., NIEHS Acting Director Sam Wilson, M.D., and Ohio State Rep. Steven Driehaus. In his comments, Wilson talked about the value of community engagement by scientists.

"Town hall meetings are important to share views and understand where real needs are on the academic side and from community groups," Wilson said. "The potential benefit is enormous."

The speakers from CEG, who are some of the leading researchers in the environmental health sciences, focused on hazards in the home, including exposures to lead, plastics, second-hand smoke, mold and traffic exhaust. Attendees learned how to recognize potentially harmful exposures, prevent them when possible and find help to correct them if necessary.

"This was a unique opportunity for the Greater Cincinnati community and others throughout the region because this will be the only NIEHS town hall meeting of this kind in 2008," said Elizabeth Kopras, CEG junior research associate and meeting coordinator. "Attendees had the opportunity to have direct input on the decision-making process for how NIEHS allocates its funding opportunities for the upcoming fiscal year — as well leave the meeting better equipped to protect their health and the health of their loved ones."

Accompanying Wilson to the meeting were NIEHS Director of Science Policy and Planning Joyce Martin, J.D., and John Schelp, special assistant to the director. Schelp also helps coordinate the NIEHS Public Interest Partners group, a national forum for community advocacy.

Previous Town Meetings

Asthma and the Air We Breath 13 July 2007 Charlotte, North Carolina Friendship Missionary Baptist Church
Charlotte Town Meeting on Air Quality & Health Disparities: Public Invited to Help Set Research Agenda

Friendship Missionary Baptist Church joined with the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and American Health Strategies in holding a town meeting in Charlotte to discuss ongoing and new ways to improve air quality among minority populations.

Research has consistently shown that African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans are more likely to develop chronic respiratory illnesses, including asthma when compared to white Americans. In addition, minorities are more likely to have poor outcomes associated with chronic respiratory illnesses. Differences in exposure to ozone and other pollutants may contribute to the disparities observed in disease prevalence and severity. It is time to clear the air. The Charlotte Town Meeting on Air Quality and Health Disparities was open to the public.

NIEHS director, Dr. David Schwartz, was the keynote speaker for the meeting. The NIEHS has a noted tradition of supporting research relevant to understanding health disparities and concerns of disadvantaged communities. Congressional staff, state and local representatives, researchers and leaders in the medical and public health community participated in the community forum.
Environmental & Neurodevelopmental Disorders over the Lifespan 11 September 2005 Durham, North Carolina International Neurotoxicolgy Conference
Town Meeting Agenda (  Download Adobe Reader (176 KB)
Growing Pains: Health & Community Impacts of Goods Movements and the Ports 25-26 February 2005 Long Beach, California Southern California Environmental Health Sciences Center (USC & UCLA)
Meeting Website( Exit NIEHS Website
Impact of Urban Sprawl on Health in the Inner City 16 December 2004 Atlanta, Georgia Crystal James Associates and Morehouse College
Morehouse Press Release (  Download Adobe Reader (68 KB)
Environmental Health Concerns in Hawaii 14 February 2004 Honolulu, Hawaii University of Hawaii and University of Arkansas
Local Coverage of Meeting( Exit NIEHS Website

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Last Reviewed: October 13, 2008