Southern California is a densely populated urban area with serious air pollution. The region is also home to the largest port complex in the U.S., with related highways, rail yards, and warehouses that contributing more than ¼ of the region's diesel particulate pollution.
Research results from the Children's Environmental Health Center (CEHC) based at Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California (USC), have shown that children who live close to busy roads and freeways are more likely to have reduced lung function and asthma. As a core of the CEHC, the Community Outreach and Translation Core (COTC) was developed to facilitate community partnerships and relationships with the public. The COTC serves as a bridge between the Center's researchers (who are at both USC and UCLA) and members of the community, including elected officials and decision-makers.
To facilitate both the Center's Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR) project and the COTC's outreach efforts, formal partnerships were developed with two community-based groups concerned about respiratory illness and traffic emissions, the Long Beach Alliance for Children with Asthma and the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice. This presentation will describe how, through these partnerships, the Center scientists have been able to draw upon community knowledge in conducting their studies and ensuring that their research is reflective of community concerns. From the partners’ side, the presentation will describe how special training sessions and conferences ensure that the Center's findings are shared in an understandable way.
The presentation will also describe how the COTC has worked collaboratively with its community partners over the past three years to develop and nurture Neighborhood Assessment Teams–or A-Teams–to conduct community assessments of environmental health problems.
Members of the A-Teams are bilingual community residents, often with limited formal education, who receive stipends for their neighborhood assessment activities. They are Latina mothers who are truly engaged in their community, and many of them have children with asthma.
The A-Teams have taken a specific interest in documenting traffic volume in communities frequented by trucks hauling containers to and from the local marine ports. A-Team members receive leadership training, classes in public health, and work jointly with university partners on developing protocols for counting traffic and monitoring air pollution. Following their field work, A-Team members are trained in making effective presentations at public meetings.
This presentation will report on how a community-based environmental health assessment approach can (1) empower community volunteers; (2) focus on a very specific issue of neighborhood concern–heavy duty diesel port truck traffic on residential streets ; (3) enhance understanding of air pollution hot spots; (4) expand the capabilities of community groups to conduct their own research; (5) inform the university research effort; and (6) have an impact on the decision-making process. Successes and challenges will be discussed.