The Center for Public Engagement with Science provides research translation and community engagement on a variety of environmental health topics for research centers within UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, including the UNC Center for Environmental Health and Susceptibility (CEHS) and the UNC Superfund Research Program (SRP). By informing the public about these environmental health issues, we aim to enable North Carolinians to make informed decisions regarding their exposure to specific environmental influences upon disease and reducing risk.
The 21EH Scholars program provides paid environmental health sciences research internships for undergraduate students from North Carolina Central University and UNC-Chapel Hill. Over 12 months, 21EH Scholars work closely with a faculty mentor in the Gillings School of Global Public Health, participating in cutting-edge environmental health sciences research and developing research skills as part of a lab team.
In North Carolina, asthma affects nearly 1 out of 10 people. CPES shares research conducted in the UNC Center for Environmental Health and Susceptibility on air quality and health, with a focus on preventing indoor and outdoor environmental triggers that exacerbate asthma and allergies. We train public health professionals, providing educational tools and communication skill-building activities that help them address environmental triggers with their patients and clients.
Scientists in UNC’s Gillings School of Public Health are beginning to assess the role of epigenetics in human health, from a nutritional biochemist investigating links between obesity and breast cancer to a scientist linking epigenetic modifications of DNA to exposure to toxic metals. We are at the forefront of translating these research findings into meaningful learning experiences for students of biology.
Two-thirds of all U.S. families live in a home with at least one major health risk. Through partnerships with national, state and local health and housing agencies, we have worked to educate North Carolinians so that they can reduce their exposure to home hazards like lead, poor indoor air quality, pests and pesticides, and home injuries.
Lead exposure during pregnancy and breastfeeding can permanently harm a baby’s health. For over a decade, we have educated NC health professionals and residents about lead as an environmental health hazard for small children. Those efforts were recently expanded to partner with NC DHHS to implement federal guidelines aimed at protecting pregnant women and their children from lead poisoning.
Since 2009, the Center for Public Engagement with Science has been engaging key stakeholders such as fishermen, regulatory agencies, and local stakeholders to improve communication of fish consumption advisories. In partnership with NC State University’s Center for Human Health and Environment and Duke University’s Superfund Research Center, we have convened a series of stakeholder meetings to explore challenges to FCA communication in North Carolina.
The UNC Superfund Research Program’s Research Translation (RT) team and Community Engagement Core (CEC) increase understanding of harmful environmental exposures such as inorganic arsenic and develop solutions to prevent exposure to these contaminants in well water. These actions support the goals of the UNC SRP, to develop new solutions for reducing exposure to inorganic arsenic and prevent arsenic-induced diabetes through research.
The Center for Public Engagement with Science is collaborating with the UNC Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering (Dr. Rebecca Fry) and Virginia Tech Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (Dr. Marc Edwards) to document and respond to private well contamination in environmental justice communities in North Carolina. Over four years, we have tested wells and reported findings to over 1,200 private well users.