Superfund Research Program
Project Summary (2000-2005)
The goal of the BU Superfund Basic Research Program (BUSBRP) Outreach Core is to establish communication between the program and the surrounding community and to learn more about the community's concerns and how new research directions might help answer their questions. The Outreach Core is based in the Department of Environmental Health of the Boston University School of Public Health and works closely with the EPA Region I Superfund Community Involvement Program and five community-based organizations. Transfer of information from BUSBRP to the community is through a variety of routes, most importantly by direct participation of project leaders and investigators in educational programs, mini-courses, meetings and seminars. The central focus is on how hazardous substances in the environment might affect reproduction and development, with examples taken from (but not limited to) the work of the program.
Outreach activities target community groups in the New England region who are concerned about toxic contamination in their neighborhoods, students from underserved communities in the inner city, and local health care providers. Such a strategy provides resources to those most directly involved with the day-to-day impact of environmental contamination on health, while also supporting efforts to diversify the environmental health professions.
Outreach to communities is carried out through a network of collaborating governmental and non-profit organizations and consists of disseminating informational materials, brochures, and newsletters; organizing community forums and workshops; and providing technical assistance. To carry out these activities, collaborative agreements have been established with the following Boston-based programs in order to reach a wide range of interested community groups: a) the US EPA Region I Superfund Community Involvement Program; b) the Massachusetts Department of Public Health Bureau of Environmental Health Assessment; c) the Toxics Action Center, a non-profit organization which assists local citizen groups in New England who are fighting pollution in their communities; and d) the New England regional office of Clean Water Fund, a national citizens' organization which organizes grassroots groups, coalitions and campaigns to protect environment, health, economic well-being and community quality of life.
The program for health care professionals consists of outreach to community physicians and other health care providers through jointly planned seminars in community health centers, and brochures and informational materials. Outreach is aimed at those working in urban settings who have an interest in learning more about how environmental contaminants affect the health of their clients. This part of the program is carried out in collaboration with Greater Boston Physicians for Social Responsibility, which has taken a leadership role in projects regarding public health and the environment.
The third part of the Outreach program is aimed at promoting interest in careers in the environmental health sciences among young people from underserved communities and communities of color. This is accomplished by introducing high school and community college students from the inner-city to the field of environmental health through internships, projects and seminars. Project staff are working with Roxbury Community College and with the Boston Area Health Education Center (BAHEC), a program designed to prepare underrepresented minority students for entry into post-secondary education leading to careers in medicine, biomedical sciences and public health.
An essential feature of the outreach program is reciprocity between researchers and the community outside the university. The Community Advisory Committee (CAC) - consisting of representatives of partner organizations, community representatives, students and health care professionals-- will advise the Outreach Program staff and meet twice a year with the BUSBRP director and researchers to provide feedback and alert them to research questions which might address community needs and concerns.
The Outreach Core is designed to reach a broad spectrum of the interested public as well as to link with specific community-based projects that have particular relevance for the work of the research program. It is a mutually beneficial program aimed at enhancing the capacity of the community to address public health problems, while at the same time enhancing the capacity of the university to engage in relevant and appropriate education and research. It recognizes the legitimacy of community-based knowledge and experience and aims to create sustainable linkages and programs that are accessible and relevant to the community.