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Superfund Research Program

Community Engagement Core (CEC)

Project Leader: Elizabeth Shapiro-Garza
Grant Number: P42ES010356
Funding Period: 2022-2027
View this project in the NIH Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tools (RePORT)

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Project Summary (2022-2027)

Supporting the aim articulated in NIEHS’s 2018-2023 strategic plan to “recognize and seek to address the disparate health impacts of environmental hazards on disadvantaged and diverse communities,” and the focus of the Duke University Superfund Research Center (DUSRC) on neurodevelopmental health impacts of early- life co-exposures to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and metals, the Community Engagement Core (CEC) engages with low socioeconomic status communities of color in Durham and Navassa, NC, experiencing disproportionate exposure due to geographic proximity to hazardous sites and exacerbated health risks from exposures due to social determinants of health.

The CEC’s holistic, three-tiered approach to prevention and intervention is based on the environmental health literacy framework, generating awareness of, and promoting self-efficacy to reduce early life exposure to PAHs and metals by generating solutions at the individual, community, and policy levels. Co-produced in collaboration with the team’s extensive network of community partner organizations in the two geographic areas, and in accordance with their expressed interests and needs, the CEC initiatives facilitate bidirectional communication between affected communities and Center researchers and trainees, other SRPs and local, state, and federal agencies.

The first initiative promotes individual awareness and self-efficacy to reduce exposure among pregnant women and children in Durham, NC, through report-back and bidirectional communication. In collaboration with the Prenatal Exposures to PAHs and Metals in an Impacted Community: Assessing Neurodevelopment Impacts and Tracing Metal Sources project and the Administrative and Research Translation Core (ARTC) and Data Management and Analysis Core (DMAC), the CEC applies best practices in risk communication and employs effective report-back and bidirectional communication strategies to develop accessible, culturally appropriate communication tools that promote informed decision-making and empower individual participants to take action to reduce exposures.

Secondly, the CEC fosters community level awareness of and the capacity to investigate and reduce exposures through Environmental Health Academies, co-developed and implemented with partner organizations in Durham and Navassa. The content of these Academies is developed based on community interests and concerns and in conjunction with community partners, DUSRC researchers and trainees from DUSRC research projects and the Analytical Chemistry Core (ACC), DMAC, and Research Experience and Training Coordination Core (RETCC), as well as relevant local, state, and federal agency stakeholders.

Lastly, the CEC builds the capacity of affected communities to assess and utilize environmental health data to promote more effective and inclusive policies aimed at reducing exposure. In conjunction with their community partner organizations in Durham and Navassa, the CEC collaborates with the ARTC, RETCC, and DMAC to synthesize and report aggregate results of DUSRC research, summarize related policies and policy processes, and facilitate participatory planning to develop community-identified policy actions that promote exposure reduction and network with local, state, and federal policy and decision makers.

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