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Final Progress Reports: Boston University: Community Engagement Core

Superfund Research Program

Community Engagement Core

Project Leader: Madeleine Kangsen Scammell
Co-Investigators: Michael D. McClean, Wendy J. Heiger-Bernays, David H. Sherr
Grant Number: P42ES007381
Funding Period: 2005-2021

Project-Specific Links

Final Progress Reports

Year:   2019  2016  2004 

The outreach core seeks to establish collaborative projects with communities, health care providers and investigators to address environmental health problems related to community exposure to hazardous waste; to nurture the careers in the environmental health sciences of young people in underserved communities; and to increase public awareness about environmental health problems and solutions.

In the last year Dr. Ozonoff and his team members had considerable success toward their goal to develop educational materials for community groups contemplating a health study. Working with their Outreach Core partners at Greater Boston Physicians for Social Responsibility (GBPSR) and Toxics Action Center, Outreach core Director Madeleine Scammell drafted the outline of a five-chapter guide on community health studies. Typical questions posed by community groups, addressed in each chapter, include: What are your goals? Is a health study appropriate for achieving your goals? What kinds of health studies are there? What kind of health study in particular will help you achieve your goals? What agencies and institutions usually conduct health studies and how? What if your study doesn’t find anything? What if you do find something? In addition to a thorough literature review of outreach materials for communities exposed to hazardous waste, outreach partners have conducted interviews and organized focus groups. These data will be incorporated into the final product, which will be available in hard copy and in an interactive version on-line by the end of 2005.

Members of the BU-SBRP also participated in several educational programs with another outreach partner, the Boston Area Health Education Center (BAHEC). For the third consecutive year Dr. Ozonoff’s team conducted an environmental health scenario for nearly 100 Boston-area minority students. This year’s topic was, Public health response to dioxin-contaminated chicken. Students were presented a scenario in which there was an outbreak of chicken illness related to dioxin-contaminated feed in the Southeastern United States. Superfund investigators played the roles of dioxin scientists and chicken farmer, while BU-SBRP graduate students, a representative from the Boston Public Health Commission, and BU School of Public Health faculty played the roles of concerned residents and FDA officials. Students acted as public health officials in Massachusetts faced with the decisions of whether the poultry was safe and if meat in supermarkets should be recalled. The students responded with extraordinary enthusiasm. Using fictitious news articles and information (often conflicting) obtained from their interviews with these role-players, the students debated the public health threat and vigorously defended their action proposals. Afterwards they were presented with the actual facts of the 1999 dioxin contamination of poultry farms in Belgium and compared their own decisions with those made by real public officials. 

As a result of last year’s well-received article by BU-SBRP investigator Dr. Sherr in the GBPSR newsletter, GBPSR dedicated a regular column featuring SBRP investigators, "From Research to Real Life.” This year, SBRP post-doc Sherilyn Sawyer (project 7) wrote, Environmental Chemicals and Estrogens: The Good, the Bad and the Unknown. Lessons From Fish. After working with GBPSR staff on the newsletter, Dr. Sawyer wrote to GBPSR, “Thanks for letting me in on such a neat opportunity. It's not often that basic science researchers get the chance to interface with the health community, so the relationship with your group is a special one.”

Department of Environmental Health doctoral student Barbara Goldoftas has replaced Madeleine Scammell on this core. However Ms. Scammell will continue to work on the Outreach Core as she writes her dissertation.


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