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Environmental Justice & Community-Based Participatory Research

Positive outcomes from these programs have been in the following categories:

  • Methods for linking members of a community with researchers & health care providers.
  • Increased awareness of basic environmental health concepts, issues, and resources.
  • Greater community role in identifying and defining problems and risks related to environmental exposures.
  • Inclusion of community in dialogue shaping research approaches to the problem.
  • Improved Public Health
  • Policy change

Examples include:

Methods for linking members of a community with researchers & health care providers

  • Developing programs for Community Leader Training (youth and adult)
  • Establishing Community Advisory Committees that are very engaged in developing research questions, establishing the intervention, and working with the dissemination of research findings to community residents.
  • Using theater to communicate environmental health issues and environmental justice concerns
  • Creating educational videos
  • Providing environmental health continuing education workshops for health care professionals
  • Training Lay Health Advisors
  • Utilizing media campaigns (TV, radio, web) to increase awareness about environmental health

Increased awareness

  • Fish Consumption Risk Communication in Ethnic Milwaukee
    20 minute video, "Beneath the Waters", addresses health issues of consuming contaminated fish within the cultural context of the Hmong population in Milwaukee. The video uses a fishing expedition by a Hmong family to frame the important health issues, the types of fish that are preferable to eat, the methods of preparation that minimize exposure to contaminants. A Hmong clan leader, a Hmong doctor, and an expert on fish consumption risk from the NIEHS Marine and Freshwater Biomedical Sciences Center contributed to the content of the video.

  • Land Use, Environmental Justice, and Children's Health 
    This project established Community Action Teams (CATs) as a vehicle for community empowerment and education. The CATs receive information and help develop strategies for translating environmental health findings into policy at the neighborhood level, and creating support for policy change in the wider community.

  • Harlem Children’s Zone Asthma Initiative
    To date, preliminary results underscore a childhood asthma crisis in Central Harlem with 25% (N = 314 of 1,260) of parents indicated that their child has asthma as compared to commonly reported national rates of 5 to 7 percent. This project has increased awareness about asthma in Central Harlem community. HCZAI was invited to discuss the Asthma Initiative and the New York City asthma epidemic on WNYC's Brian Lehrer radio show.

  • Dorchester Occupational Health Initiative
    The project provided background research for statewide policy and program initiatives around preventing the use of flammable products in hardwood floor finishing; launching a media outreach campaign targeting Vietnamese-American floor finishers; and developing a group of Cape Verdean immigrant cleaning workers who are choosing topics for educating themselves, then developing print and video materials for educating others in the community about workplace conditions. The youth component conducted outreach and dialogue with local small business owners, identifying fire hazards and violence as issues of local concern and incorporating these concerns into a campaign to promote fire-safe cigarettes.

Shaping Research and Policy

  • Environmental Health and Justice for St. Lawrence Island, Alaska
    Residents participating in this project utilized the capacity gained from the collaboration to collect background data to inform their decision to reject a proposal for a hazardous waste facility on the island’s Northeast Cape.

  • Healthy Food, Healthy Schools and Healthy Communities
    In this project, the partners mapped out locations of food sources, and assessed quality and cost of food. Using this information, parents were able to affect school policy change because they were able to identify new strategies to improve the food environment. Team members worked with a Los Angeles Unified School District board member to help formulate possible school-based policies.

  • Land Use, Environmental Justice, and Children's Health
    EHC staff and National City community residents persuaded National City council to adopt an ordinance that will have the effect of phasing out autobody shops from the Old Town neighborhood. This will reduce exposure to emissions of vehicle paints, solvents, and metals for Old Town residents and students at Kimball Elementary School. In addition, City Council of San Diego voted on April 4, 2005, to ban commercial vehicles weighing more than 5 tons from Cesar Chavez Parkway, a major street that runs through the heart of the Barrio Logan community, and several other Barrio Logan streets. An estimated 2,600 trucks per day are re-routed around the community since the ban has been enforced, beginning in January 2006. This action reduces the community's exposure to diesel exhaust and truck safety hazards.

    Environmental Justice and Air Quality policies, and a required 1000-foot buffer zone for hazardous waste facilities, have been incorporated into the General Plan Update for the City of Chula Vista, as recommended by EHC. This planning document will guide land use planning in this city for the next 10 to 20 years. City staff have incorporated recommendations for 500 foot freeway buffers into the Specific Plans for two Chula Vista neighborhoods.

Identifying Problems

  • Environmental Impacts on Arab Americans in Metro Detroit
    This project established a Community Council comprised of community, health care providers, schools and community and cultural organizations. The purpose of the Community Council was to guide project development, design community interventions, and disseminate research findings. A Community Action Plan was developed through the community input. The plan identified the priority environmental health concerns of the community: air pollution, respiratory illness, truck traffic and truck exhaust, and the need for environmental education.

  • Linking Breast Cancer Advocacy and Environmental Justice
    This project, which includes sites in New England and Southern California, created a Community Advisory Council. The purpose of the council is to, recommend and suggest proposed research strategies, even identify research sites and study participant recruitment.

Improved Public Health

  • University of California, Berkeley
    This CBPR project working with Farmworkers in Salinas Valley is trying to reduce pesticide exposure to the workers. The project team has developed educational and technical intervention strategies. As part of their technical intervention, the project team has developed lightweight clothing to protect workers from pesticides in the field. In addition, the team has created and provides warm water in field to promote hand washing. The team discovered that warm water, in the cultural context of the workers, is considered to be better for their overall health than cold water. As a result of their technical interventions, many of the workers are washing hands and using coveralls (92%). Consequently, the takehome pathway of pesticides is reduced.

  • Seattle King County Health Department
    This CBPR project has developed in-home asthma interventions and education efforts. A key facet of this project has been the training of nurses and community asthma specialists. Results demonstrate the efficacy of community-based project. The project has observed (1) increased retention, (2) continued use of intervention strategies, and (3) better asthma management by families and decreased symptoms.

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Last Reviewed: May 18, 2007