Event Highlight: Fresh Ideas from the PEPH Meeting

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I was fortunate to get to attend this year’s PEPH meeting in March and spent two days networking with an amazing group of professionals. PEPH (Partnerships for Environmental Public Health) is a network of scientists, community members, educators, health care providers, public health officials, and policy makers working together to advance the impact of environmental public health research. PEPH is a program of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). Here are a few sparks of inspiration I brought home from the event:

  • Theater of the Oppressed expert John Sullivan of the University of Texas Medical Branch Center in Environmental Toxicology helped a group of 20 of us “non-actors” use our bodies to portray the health hazards of living in a neighborhood with trains and smokestacks. A dramatic way to engage folks in our work!
  • How can we effectively communicate our environmental public health message? Know our audience. Create a specific message. Build relationships in the community. Think strategically. Share materials. Take advantage of the web, emerging technologies, and social media (like our blog!) Use headlines, front-load the important stuff, use plain language. Everybody has information overload, so keep it short and sweet.
  • Build Capacity: Some researchers have room to grow when it comes to working with diverse communities; many IRBs need to develop a better understanding of how community-based participatory research (CBPR) is different from traditional research.
  • Many community partners are involved in PEPH, evidence that CBPR is important in NIEHS-funded research.
  • A few of the research topics we heard about at the meeting: Flame retardants, breast cancer, PCBs in the Arctic, GIS mapping, climate change, is Gulf seafood safe?

So glad to be a part of NIEHS’ commitment to outreach, education, community partnerships and environmental justice work!

                                                                                       -- Marilyn Hair

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