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Final Progress Reports: University of Kentucky: Community Engagement Core

Superfund Research Program

Community Engagement Core

Project Leader: Dawn Brewer
Co-Investigator: Gia Mudd
Grant Number: P42ES007380
Funding Period: 2005-2025
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Final Progress Reports

Year:   2019  2013  2007 

Studies and Results

The main purpose of UK's SRC's Community Outreach Core, Superfund Community Action through Nutrition (SCAN) program, is to meet the needs of individuals and communities affected by environmental contaminants by providing educational support about nutrition and health-related issues. In response to community requests and as part of specific aims 1 and 2, SCAN programs were continued with previously established community constituents:

1. Dayhoit, Harlan County, KY – The public health issues at this site are cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and cancer.

This year, several community members suggested forming a Harlan Healthy Foods advisory team. This team along with the Harlan County Cooperative Extension Service (CES) agent and when requested, CEC personnel, will promote programs and activities about healthy foods, food preparation, local food purchases, and recipes. In addition to the CES agent, this community-based team includes a legal secretary, a former kindergarten teacher, and a homemaker. This team has been especially interested in new food ideas and one of their most requested activities is to have the CEC bring a Lexington chef to demonstrate healthy food preparation techniques. The original Community Advisory Board, the Harlan County KY-CES agents, the local health care professionals, and now, the Harlan Healthy Foods advisory team are equal partners in planning and participating in nutrition-related activities for the community. The CEC found this to be a positive development for capacity building in the community.

The CEC Core Leader and at least one CEC personnel have worked with this Superfund community in Appalachia for the last eight years. There have been challenges because five of those years involved pending litigation. Although the litigation is completed, there are still barriers within the community. Some participants in the lawsuits are angry about the results and were cautioned not to talk about the proceedings. Some community members directly involved have been reluctant to become openly involved in CEC activities, take group leadership roles, or allow use of their names in letters or other writings. The Core has been sensitive to such issues and as a result have gained trust and participation from the community.

The CEC responded to requests from various community members in this area to discuss the role of the litigation and the UK-SRC activities. They had several small (3-4 community members and CEC personnel), informal meetings on this topic during the last year. (Included approximately 20 community members, total) Examples of the comments:

  • "My husband's family and I grew up downstream from the plant and he worked there cleaning coal machinery in a large vat of chemicals. My husband never got any compensation. He has stomach problems and his brother died of stomach cancer."
  • "I have noticed that people have made changes in their behavior after coming to your programs. I remember a program that you had us taste cold salmon. I don't generally like salmon, but I really enjoyed it." and
  • "My wife and I were both involved in the second lawsuit. She died Christmas Eve, 2004, of complications of heart disease and diabetes. Because it was not cancer, it did not count for the law suit. I came to some of your programs and one time left with a fresh pineapple. I remember you talked about the foods I need to eat to stay healthy."
The CEC plans to continue these informal meetings to build trust and respond to requests by community members.

2. Louisville, KY – Red Penn Sanitation Company NPL site. The public health issues at this site are cardiovascular disease and cancer (leukemia, breast and lung cancer). They have continued collaboration with this group at their request through the CES agent and their county's CES activities.

In response to specific aims 2. further define the CEC's nutrition message as provided by UK-SRC's researchers and 3. develop new, tangible qualitative outcome measures of CEC programs with consideration of sensitive issues. Two CEC graduate students investigated evaluation and outocmes strategies. A CEC postdoctoral student studied associations among exposure to PCBs, nutritional status, and metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes in order to substantiate UK-SRC's CEC's programs and responses to community member's questions about nutrition and health risks. A manuscript is in final review evaluating data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).

For the same specific aims, a second manuscript on community engagement with environmental issues has been completed and submitted to a journal emphasizing hunger and environmental nutrition. Collaboration with researchers at Yale facilitated statistical analysis and validation of a survey instrument entitled the Environmental Health Engagement Profile (EHEP) Kentucky Nutrition Version for this research. The original EHEP survey (developed at Yale) was the basis for the methods used by this graduate student's (Beth Willett, 1st place in the Biomedical poster competition at the SRP Annual Meeting in 2010) for her Master's thesis. Jane Dixon, senior researcher at Yale, submitted an abstract that was accepted for an oral presentation at the American Public Health Association's Annual Meeting in November, 2013. Her presentation, entitled, "Environment, health, and the food we eat: Measuring people's thoughts and actions," was based on the validation of the nutrition survey instrument used by UK'SRC's CEC in Kentucky.

The Core Leader had an abstract entitled, "Nutrition interventions improve health and mitigate harm from environmental insults," accepted for an oral presentation at the Asia Pacific Congress on Clinical Nutrition, from June 9th-12th, 2013 in Tokyo, Japan. She was, however, unable to attend.

Another Master's student presented a poster at the SRP Annual Meeting in Baton Rouge, LA in November, 2013 entitled, "Superfund pollutants, health, and the food we eat: University of Kentucky's Superfund Research Center's (UK-SRC's) Community Engagement Core (CEC) finds more evidence of their connection"


Data from UK-SRC's researchers have shown that PCBs and other chlorinated compounds may contribute to an increased risk for such chronic diseases as cardiovascular disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes, especially in combination with poor diet. These medical conditions diminish quality of life and demand tremendous economic resources. UK-SRC's CEC nutrition programs are an important community service for Kentuckians in proximity to Superfund sites. It has been important to identify and build trust with affected community members, especially those with environmental justice issues, and plan more effective nutrition programs that respond to communities' requests as well as help community members achieve change. Following exposure to Superfund chemicals, nutrition may be one lifestyle change to improve health status and behavior and to advance public health.

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