Community Science Workshops. The CSWs are an ideal vehicle for establishing strong community partnerships through REACH that enable us to identify and prioritize community health needs and to provide input into developing research questions in conjunction with the Community-Based Research facility of the IHSFC. REACH also provides a mechanism for convening patient advisory boards to provide feedback to CET investigators on research protocols, human subjects’ protections, and advice on potential issues related to recruitment, study design, and methods. Community input is necessary to guide the development of culturally sensitive, ethical research proposals, and provide assistance with effective dissemination of results. The CSWs were launched in 2008 as a central feature of the EJ Encuentro Network. Our annual Encuentro primes the collaborative activities of the CSW and serves as a mechanism for translational education, and a hub for networking among researchers, community-based public health organizations and EJ advocates. The Encuentro network fosters working relationships—modeled on the NIEHS’s Partnerships for Environmental Public Health network—emphasizing coordination of existing initiatives and resources focused on cross-sectorial environmental health collaborations among regional stakeholders and CET science. This methodology also facilitates development and evaluation of innovative educational and risk communication tools. Encuentro sessions typically feature: a) progress reports on active CSW projects; b) networking between community organizations and environmental scientists to match site-specific exposure concerns with research skills and interests; c) developing new relationships and CSW environmental health proposals; d) strategic scientific/educational and advocacy planning in response to emerging environmental health issues; e) skill development workshops; f) development of effective environmental public health and EJ outreach strategies to enhance the knowledge base of communities and inform public policy; and g) presentations and interactive workshops in application of popular arts and education experiential learning techniques. The COEC will continue to contribute to the Encuentro in partnership with Texas Southern University.
Disaster Research Response (DR2). The DR2 outreach program is a multi-faceted program to fast-track disaster research by developing emergency management partnerships with first responders, emergency management agencies, the community, and public health providers that can be rapidly mobilized in the event of a natural or manmade disaster or an infectious disease outbreak. In concert with the NIEHS strategic plan and ongoing initiatives, a major new focus of the CET is aimed at DR2 and community resilience. By building upon our strong history of working with communities in post-disaster settings, we will examine environmentally-linked human health threats and devise multi-level education and intervention programs for preparation, response, and communication. Dr. Croisant has been working with the national DR2 Environmental Health Network, and in February 2015, the COEC co-sponsored an NIEHS Disaster Tabletop exercise with the Southwest Center for Occupational and Environmental Health and attended by the NIEHS Director, Dr. Birnbaum. To meet the DR2 objectives the COEC is developing a roadmap for how the CET can synergistically integrate its DR2 goals with first responder training programs. Drs. Croisant and Elferink have recently established direct ties to the UTMB Clinical Emergency Response Unit, and through this unit established ties to local, state, and regional disaster preparedness and response initiatives with the Texas Department of State Health Services and HHS Region 6 (TALON: Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, New Mexico). UTMB serves as an “anchor hospital” for Region 6 infectious disease epidemic response and training and thus provides the infrastructure for us to develop first responder training for environmental health disasters.