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University of Kentucky

Superfund Research Program

Community Engagement Core

Project Leader: Dawn Brewer
Co-Investigator: Gia Mudd
Grant Number: P42ES007380
Funding Period: 2005-2025
View this project in the NIH Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tools (RePORT)

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Project Summary (2020-2025)

The research proposed by the University of Kentucky Superfund Research Center (UK SRC) uses basic biological, chemical, and physical methods through nutrition and physical activity to reduce the amount and toxicity of hazardous substances (Superfund Research Program Mandate No. 4). Incorporating good nutrition and physical activity strategies in conjunction with increasing environmental health literacy focused on nutrition and contaminant exposures aligns with the central theme of the UK SRC — reducing risk posed by environmental contaminants in vulnerable communities — and with the prevention/intervention activities implemented by the Community Engagement Core (CEC). The CEC continues to engage in bidirectional communication with its longest standing community partner of 12 years, the Harlan community located in southeastern Kentucky, near the National Electric Coil Co. / Cooper Industries Superfund site in Dayhoit. At this National Priorities List site, disposal of chlorinated solvents affected plant workers and neighbors living in a nearby mobile home park and surrounding area. New partnerships have also been formed in Letcher County, Kentucky, which has concerns related to the negative health consequences associated with air and water pollution derived from coal mining. The CEC also brought environmental pollutant- and healthy lifestyle-focused interventions to older adults in central Kentucky. Although not exposed to a particular environmental contaminant, the older adult population is important to include in engagement activities because of its rapid growth. By virtue of being older, these individuals have been exposed to more environmental contaminants, and, with age, the detoxification capacity of their livers and kidneys has declined, putting them at greater risk of experiencing more pronounced negative health effects from environmental contaminants. The innovation of the CEC to engage communities is apparent in its prevention/intervention activities. The activities are grounded in evidence-based approaches by intervening at multiple levels of the social-ecological model of health behavior change, including the individual, community, and organizational levels, which allows the CEC to implement healthy lifestyle and environmental pollution education into existing community programs that reach populations across the lifespan. Major community partners include county Cooperative Extension Service Family and Consumer Science (FCS) and Horticulture agents, county senior centers, community centers, and farmers’ markets. The CEC incorporates the science of the UK SRC into existing community programs, including walking programs, FCS Extension health programs, gardening programs, senior center health programs, and youth day camp programs. The gardening program not only fosters collaboration with community entities but also with the Duke SRC as it combines the expertise of both. Overall, collaboration with community partners will benefit residents by providing opportunities to improve health and receive new knowledge pertaining to using healthy lifestyles to reduce exposure to environmental contaminants.

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