The Center for Public Engagement with Science provides community engagement and research translation 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.
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.
DNA and Epigenetics
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.
E-cigarettes and Health
Increasing numbers of e-cigarette users, particularly youth, highlight a need for community engagement to increase science literacy and bridge the gap between scientists conducting e-cigarette research and those who can benefit from these findings. To address this gap, we developed data-based educational materials for K-12 audiences in collaboration with researchers in the UNC Center for Environmental Health and Susceptibility.
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 and Pregnancy
For over a decade, we have educated NC health professionals and residents about lead as an environmental health hazard for young 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. Due to this on-going expertise, we have been brought on to help UNC-Chapel Hill respond to lead contamination in campus fixtures.
Private Well Protection
In partnership with the UNC SRP, CPES increases understanding of harmful environmental exposures such as inorganic arsenic and develop solutions to prevent exposure to these contaminants in well water. Through our work with private well users, we responded to private well contamination in environmental justice communities in NC. Over six years, we tested wells and reported findings to over 1,500 private well users.
NC Fish Forum
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.