More people will learn about the health impacts of living near busy roadways, thanks to a Jan. 10 award for the interactive infographic, "Living Near Busy Roads or Traffic Pollution." The Transportation Research Board (TRB), part of the prestigious National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, recognized the entry from the NIEHS-funded Southern California Environmental Health Sciences Center at the University of Southern California (USC). TRB recognition brings national attention to the infographic, which is also available in Spanish and Chinese.
TRB holds the annual John and Jane Q. Public Competition Showcase to promote plain language communication of critical transportation concepts. This was the first year the contest focused on communicating the connections between public health and transportation.
Infographic highlights risks across the lifespan
The prize-winning infographic, designed by the center’s Community Outreach and Engagement Core, highlights potential health issues for individuals — including babies, pregnant women, children, adults, and seniors — living near busy roadways.
Each health issue is linked to collections of research results that address health impacts of exposure to near-roadway air pollution and more. The infographic also provides practical steps anyone can take to reduce their exposures. Importantly, the message is delivered in the simple kitchen-table terms required by the contest rules.
“The nearer you live to these roadways, the greater your risk for exposure to environmental toxins,” said Wendy Gutschow, project coordinator for the Community Outreach and Engagement team. “A key mission of our community engagement program is to provide local residents with scientific research about toxic exposures so that they can make healthy changes to their environment.”
Focus on ports and goods movement
“Our infographic detailing the risks and linking to cutting-edge research is a team effort, involving not just our staff and our USC researchers, but also our Southern California-based community partners, such as the Long Beach Alliance for Children with Asthma,” Gutschow explained.
Together, the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles form one of the world’s largest regions of goods movement. Ships, trains, and trucks are constantly on the move, transporting trade goods in and out of the area, with attendant pollution. According to a case study published in the journal Environmental Justice, the California Air Resources Board estimates that goods movement in the state is responsible for an estimated 2,400 premature deaths annually.
The Core hit upon the idea of using simple, eye-catching graphics that were easy to read and understand. In response to high demand, they translated the web-based information into Spanish and Chinese, customized it for Southern California areas with specific environmental concerns, and produced thousands of hard copies for local environmental justice groups to distribute to affected communities.
“It is exciting to see the Community Outreach and Engagement Core at USC receive this recognition for their creative work,” said Liam O’Fallon, director of the NIEHS Partnerships for Environmental Public Health program. “This award highlights the value of infographics to improve public health by communicating research findings to the public and to other local, regional, and national stakeholders in an easy-to-understand fashion.”
(Wendy Anson, Ph.D., is a contract writer for the NIEHS Office of Communications and Public Liaison.)