Superfund Research Program
Community Engagement Core
Project Leaders: Phil Brown, Carmen Milagros Velez Vega (University of Puerto Rico Medical Sciences Campus)
Co-Investigator: Julia Green Brody (Silent Spring Institute)
Grant Number: P42ES017198
Funding Period: 2014-2025
Final Progress Reports
The Community Engagement Core (CEC) works with community partners including March of Dimes, Citizens of the Karst, Puerto Rico Environmental Quality Committee, Municipality of Barceloneta, and four Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs). With Silent Spring Institute the team reports-back research data with participants using the smartphone version of the Digital Environmental Report-Back Interface (DERBI) expressly designed for the Puerto Rico Test site for Exploring Contamination Threats (PROTECT) study. Report-back meetings have become a significant opportunity for environmental health education. The CEC is reorganizing the report back team and has recruited trainees with expertise in communications to support expansion to a greater number of participants. The CEC has established collaborative agreements with the municipalities of Ciales and Morovis, and are completing agreements in Manatí, Barceloneta and Camuy. These agreements will support the report back process with venues and resources to continue presenting report back sessions to participants and other community partners. The CEC has continued to work with community, academic, and governmental partners on recovery and reconstruction from Hurricane María and to address Zika prevention and surveillance. In response to the challenges in post-hurricane water quality and low family income they are providing a home water filter to each participant when receiving report back. In response to the 2020 earthquakes the CEC has been collaborating with the RISE network that brings together university faculty and community organizations to provide expertise and material support for emergency preparedness and relief. Carmen M. Vélez Vega, Ph.D., was awarded the Helen Rodriguez-Trias Social Justice Award at the 2019 American Public Health Association meeting in November. This was awarded in part for her work in the area of environmental justice.