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Extramural Grantees Recognized for Community-Campus Health Outreach

By Eddy Ball
June 2008

As part of the project's Community First Communication Model, Edward Emmett, right, addressed a Community Advisory Meeting, as Dave Freeman, a trustee of the Decatur Community Association looked on.
As part of the project's Community First Communication Model, Edward Emmett, right, addressed a Community Advisory Meeting, as Dave Freeman, a trustee of the Decatur Community Association, looked on. (Photo courtesy of Mary Hufford and the University of Pennsylvania)

The University of Washington-based nonprofit Community-Campus Partnerships for Health (CCPH) announced May 4th that NIEHS Environmental Justice grantee Edward Emmett, M.D., has been recognized for his program's partnership with the Decatur Community Association (DCA) with the 7th Annual CCPH Award. Emmett, who is the director of the University of Pennsylvania Center of Excellence in Environmental Toxicology Community Outreach and Education Core, and DCA Community Coordinator Ellen Mumma received the award on May 4 at the 3rd Community-University Exposition in Victoria, BC.

When he accepted the award, Emmett( Exit NIEHS Website observed, "We believe that the success of this model-in empowering the community, reducing information disparities and community distrust, and promoting collaboration-will be sustained long past the effects of this particular study." Mumma pointed to the transformation of "a victimized, powerless community" to one that will "act instead as a cohesive, empowered, collaborative community."

Emmett's program( Exit NIEHS Website began a collaboration in 2002 with Hong Zhang, M.D., a University of Pennsylvania resident working in Parkersburg, W.Va., when they learned the chemical perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) had been found in water provided by the Little Hocking Water Authority (LHWA)( Exit NIEHS Website in southeastern Ohio. The source of PFOA was later determined to be the DuPont Washington Works manufacturing facility near Parkersburg, which discharged waste upstream into the Ohio River.

PFOA is a synthetic chemical used in a variety of industrial and consumer products, including non-stick cookware, waterproofing, breathable textiles, consumer house wares, electronics, aerospace and other applications. Animal studies have demonstrated its carcinogenic potential, and the Environmental Protection Agency has listed it as a "potential carcinogen" that may delay childhood development.

According to the CCPH, the program has been a stellar success in terms of working in collaboration with the community, even before the results and conclusions were known, to establish a detailed and logical plan for disseminating research results. By having an agreed upon plan in place, when the results were ready for dissemination, the plan was easily implemented, and the outcomes of this collaborative project were immediate and far-reaching.

"The partnership employed an innovative method of disseminating results in the community," noted CCPH Executive Director Sarena D. Seifer in presenting the award. "In what they have termed the Community First Communication Model, study findings are released first to study participants and then to the broader community, instead of publishing study results in scientific journals and hoping the results trickle down to the community."

The combination of the science and the community partnership led to DuPont's voluntary offer of free bottled water to LHWA water users and the subsequent acceptance of the alternative water source by 78 percent of households. The project findings have also led to several scholarly publications and to policy impacts. The State of New Jersey and the State of Minnesota have used the research findings to set and revise the water exposure level for PFOA in those states.

Emmett's four-year grant, "Community Exposure to Perfluorooctoanate," is administered by NIEHS Program Analyst Liam O'Fallon. It was awarded in 2003 and is currently in a no-cost extension.

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