The Community Engagement Core (CEC) is a community-university partnership to help reduce exposures to cross border flows of hazardous wastes and to improve environmental public health in the San Diego-Tijuana city-region. The CEC will utilize community-based participatory processes to engage and learn from community leaders how best to assist in building the capacity of vulnerable communities to identify, prioritize and address Superfund-related environmental health hazards and issues. We will do this with the help of a CEC advisory committee composed of community leaders, scientists, government officials and several grassroots environmental organizations active in the U.S.-Mexico border region. Our proposal has four aims: (1) In consultation with our community partners, produce and update a toxicant survey and environmental health protection needs assessment for the Tijuana-San Diego border region based on literature, workshops, existing field research (e.g., source tracking of hazardous waste flows), and some testing of soil, sediment and water by our Research Translation Core;(2) Launch a series of community workshops in partnership with Casa Familiar (San Diego) and Alter Terra (Tijuana), our two lead community-based partners, titled "Making Science Matter;Community-University Engagement for a Healthier Society." These workshops will bring community leaders, experts and scientists together in a two-way learning experience where the community learns about the relevant translational science from our SRP, and we learn from the communities their regional needs, priorities and concerns to help develop future research directions as well as explore the solutions to environmental health issues dealing with Superfund toxicant exposures. Two areas of concern identified by our community partners include the contamination taking place as a result of uncontrolled hazardous waste disposal, and soil contamination in areas where people are growing their own food;(3) Cocreate with our community partners individual and team-based opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students to design and carry out community-based service learning projects, and (4) Building on the success of the Los Laureles Canyon documentary we will co-author a series of bilingual (Spanish-English) reports, guides and science communication videos with our community partners that can serve as community empowerment tools. Our progress will be systematically evaluated using a logic model on an annual basis with input from our external advisory committee. We will share our progress and lessons learned with border communities, the U.S.EPA, ATSDR, PEPH, and the NIEHS Community Engagement network.
Crossborder flows of hazardous wastes and contamination of soil, water and sediments negatively impact many low-income communities straddling the U.S.-Mexico border. The U.S. EPA Border 2012 program, local, state and other federal agencies identify this as a problem. Our effort engages communities in San Diego and Tijuana to improve cross border science communication, solutions-based project planning, and public understanding of environmental risks posed by exposures to superfund toxicants.
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