Community Engagement Core: Tribal-University Evaluation of Chemical Exposures to Improve Community Health The Community Engagement Core will facilitate collaborations among OSU researchers and Native American Tribes in the Pacific Northwest to address Tribal concerns regarding exposure to chemicals in their environment, with a focus on understanding exposure pathways to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Our community partners are the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR), the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, and the Samish Indian Nation. Tribal communities experience exposure to PAHs and many chemicals on the CERCLA priority list from diverse sources: they reside on reservations impacted by hazardous waste sites, they collect subsistence foods from contaminated waterways, and they gather traditional foods from contaminated lands. Housing characteristics and traditional practices such as smoking foods also contribute to their chemical exposures. The cumulative exposures from these unique pathways may increase the risk of environmentally-related disease. It is critically important that Tribal communities understand these exposures and develop culturally appropriate responses and risk reduction strategies because they cannot move from their homelands to avoid contaminants and they cannot give up their culture or their religion. In turn, the research community must develop the cultural capacity to work with Tribal communities according to the principles of community-based research.
The specific aims of the Community Engagement Core are to: 1) address CTUIR concerns regarding their environmental exposures, build Tribal capacity to measure environmental pollutants, and develop risk reduction strategies that will improve health without adversely affecting cultural practices;2) build tribal capacity in analytical methods used by the CTUIR and help both the Swinomish Tribal Indian Community and the Samish Indian Nation to improve their understanding of PAH and other chemical exposures;3) collaborate with other SRP Centers, EPA regional offices, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease, the Office of Tribal Affairs, and other stakeholders to disseminate our research findings and the principles of community-based environmental health research with tribal populations that reside on contaminated lands.
Core E will build scientific capacity in Tribal communities and cultural capacity within the research community. We will improve risk assessment models by accounting for tribal land-use scenarios and unique exposure pathways. By translating this knowledge into effective and appropriate risk reduction strategies, we will reduce environmental disparities and improve the health of Pacific Northwest Tribes.
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