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Texas A&M University

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Superfund Research Program

Community Engagement Core

Project Leader: Galen Newman
Co-Investigator: Jennifer A. Horney (University of Delaware)
Grant Number: P42ES027704
Funding Period: 2017-2022

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Project Summary (2017-2022)

The residents of communities located along the Galveston Bay/Houston Ship Channel (GB/HSC) region have been documented as having excess risk of exposure to acute pollution, emergency chemical spills and incidents, and high-impact natural disasters, such as hurricanes and flooding. In addition to their documented physical and environmental vulnerability, many of the residents of these communities are also socially vulnerable. Community engagement can provide a link between the adaptive capacities of a community-the human, fiscal, political, and social resources that enable proactive behavior and the combined strength of local plans and policies-and its responses and changes after disruptions, including natural disasters and environmental contamination events. An engaged community has greater resilience and is better able to anticipate future threats and prepare for and recover from adverse events.

The Texas A&M University Superfund Research Program (TAMU SRP) Center is focused on mitigating human exposure to hazardous substances, specifically exposure caused by redistribution of contaminants by manmade or natural environmental disasters. Recognizing the importance of engaging at-risk communities to effectively decrease the threat of environmental contaminant events to human health, scholars and practitioners at TAMU formed the Resilience and Climate Change Cooperative Project, an interdisciplinary engagement project, in 2014, which focuses attention on issues related to the vulnerability and resilience of specific communities to environmental hazards. The preliminary work of the project is being extended into the Superfund Research Center, where they continue to build adaptive capacity and resilience of communities in the GB/HSC area to the threat of exposure to hazardous substances as a consequence of environmental emergency contamination events.

To do this, The Community Engagement Core pursues four community engagement aims:

  • Building capacity among community members in the detection, assessment, and evaluation of the health effects of hazardous substances
  • Developing tools and resources for community engagement using mobile applications and citizen science
  • Engaging community members in collaborative participatory research aimed at reducing exposure during environmental emergencies
  • Determining what factors will improve the adaptive capacity of GB/HSC communities to proactively plan for and manage future environmental risk linked to both natural and manmade environmental emergency contamination events

These activities are aligned with existing, and well-documented, stakeholder priorities and build on prior work done with community partners. They involve community partners in the design, data collection, and communication of findings, and particularly focus on youth engagement to foster the development of the next generation of environmental health professionals, creating community-based environmental health advocates and promoting long-term sustainability of the Center’s work.

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