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Louisiana State University

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Superfund Research Program

Community Engagement Core

Project Leader: Margaret A. Reams
Grant Number: P42ES013648
Funding Period: 2011-2018
View this project in the NIH Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tools (RePORT)

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Project Summary (2011-2018)

The goal of the Community Outreach Core is to work with residents and local environmental leaders facing potential exposure to contaminants from Superfund sites, as well as more diffused and cumulative exposure risks associated with a variety of industrial activities. The Core's efforts aim to enhance public health and overall community resilience to environmental pollution. The specific aims address three fundamental dimensions of community resilience: stakeholders' access to scientific information about hazards; social capital building through stronger networks among community groups; and the capacity of residents to develop adaptive strategies when possible to reduce future risk exposure. Core members are working with the Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN), a public interest organization with over 100 affiliated groups, to reach leaders and members of grassroots environmental organizations. Initial efforts (years one and two) are focusing on the heavily industrialized North Baton Rouge community, named by the EPA as the highest-ranked parish/county in Louisiana for chronic human health risk and the 24th highest-ranked county in the country (EPA/RSEI 2008). Residents face potential exposure to airborne pollutants, contaminants in soil and ground water, and even issues concerning fish consumption. The team is identifying residents' concerns and risk perceptions and is facilitating systematic interaction between the community stakeholders and researchers within the Center. The information is being presented at workshops with community leaders/residents and will be posted on the LSU Center's website. During the third and fourth years, the team will expand their efforts to include additional grassroots environmental organizations that are members of LEAN. They will conduct systematic evaluations to determine the overall effectiveness of the outreach efforts. These will include pre-and post-tests of workshop participants to gauge changes in knowledge levels concerning exposure routes, risk mitigation strategies, regulatory guidelines, and opportunities for public participation in decisions affecting local environmental conditions. Tallies of numbers of participating groups will be a direct measure of the extensiveness and network-strengthening effects of the Core.

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