The Center for Integrative Environmental Health Sciences (CIEHS) will promote the translation of research on pollution and lifestyle factors to understand their role in human health and diseases. The CIEHS Community Engagement Core (CEC) vision is to develop and sustain community-academic partnerships that enhance the health of south-central and western Kentucky residents by empirically addressing pollution and lifestyle factors influencing chronic diseases.
The aims of the CEC are to: (1) facilitate and support multi-directional interactions among residents, community agencies and the CIEHS to assess community needs and priorities; (2) facilitate and support multi-directional interactions to increase community awareness and understanding of CIEHS research and resources; 3) cultivate environmental literacy among identified audiences; and (4) build capacity for community-led and community-engaged environmental health research. The approach to engage the identified audiences has three tiers: (1) engage community residents via housing agencies to assess environmental health needs and community priorities; (2) involve healthcare providers to impact the healthcare system as it relates to environmental health needs; (3) share environmental health knowledge with community youth as a catalyst to promote environmental health literacy within families.
In Aim 1, the CEC will work directly with residents and community partners across south-central and western Kentucky to assess their unique community needs and priorities. Based upon the needs identified, the CEC will translate and disseminate environmental health information to our targeted audience, including CIEHS research findings (Aim 2). We will communicate with communities using multiple traditional (e.g., newspapers, factsheets) and non-traditional formats (e.g., social media platforms).
With Aim 3, the CEC will leverage its community engagement efforts to increase environmental health literacy in a three-tiered, staggered approach in the four University of Louisville Area Health Education Center (AHEC) regions of south-central and western Kentucky. Outreach and engagement efforts will involve community members, healthcare providers and community youth. Established resources from the EPA and NIEHS will be accessed, including the Partnerships for Environmental Public Health.
In Aim 4, the CEC will collaborate with the Pilot Projects Program, the Stakeholders Advisory Board and other community organizations to develop and implement, through the Integrated Health Sciences Facility Core (IHSFC ), community-led environmental health research.
Aim 4 will also include working closely with the IHSFC to facilitate investigator-initiated, community-engaged environmental health studies. The four targeted UofL AHEC areas include smaller urban areas, multiple townships, and rural areas. Residents in these rural areas are exposed to diverse environmental exposures from industry (e.g., rural distilleries; urban/small town/rural manufacturing), 12 superfund sites, and urban and rural agriculture. The CEC is an integral core within the CIEHS structure with direct impact on CIEHS research direction and decision-making.