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Community Outreach and Engagement

The COEC at the EHSRC has a long history of promoting widespread dissemination of environmental health research of the Center. As the Center has matured to focus on environmental airway disease, so has this outreach. As of 2007, our four areas of particular focus included asthma, radon, air emissions from animal agriculture, and renewable energy’s role in reducing fossil fuel emissions. Midwestern communities and especially vulnerable populations and community organizations in a wide geographical area of the central United States deserve the most current, appropriate, science and technology-based information which we have endeavored to provide. However, the COEC has also served as a local, state, national and international resource for rural environmental health.

The goals of the Community Outreach and Engagement CORE (COEC) of the EHSRC are to:
  • Promote environmental health in rural Midwestern communities and other vulnerable populations
  • Deliver appropriate, science and technology-based information
  • Translate environmental health research results into knowledge for our community members
  • Provide coordination within EHSRC for educational programming, community-based learning, and outreach services
  • Work in cooperation with other NIEHS Core Centers and university and state programs to identify existing resource materials, develop community appropriate resource materials where none exist, and translate science and technology-based research findings and other resources efficiently
  • Identify needs and respond to requests for programs/services generated by community-based organizations representing concerned citizens, consumers, professionals, institutions, and populations with special needs (children, minorities, rural poor, rural elderly)
  • Serve as a conduit for dissemination of educational and outreach materials produced by NIEHS and respond appropriately to environmental health emergencies, should any arise (as they did after the 2005 hurricanes and the 2008 floods)

COEC Leadership

Core Leader:  Edith Parker, DrPH
Core Members:  Peter S. Thorne, PhD, David Osterberg, MS, MD
Coordinator:  Nancy Wyland, MFA

The COEC has been and continues to be an integral part of the overall center activities. The COEC:

  1. fosters bi-directional communication with stakeholder and constituent populations
  2. disseminates findings of the core research areas and strengths of the Center around adverse health effects of environmental contaminants among rural and agricultural populations

Over the course of its 25-year history, the EHSRC at the University of Iowa has provided education and outreach to the general public across a 16-state region to translate the research findings of the Center. Recent activity highlights include:

Frac Sand Mining: 

  1. a supplemental project to the EHSRC funded in 2013 to conduct air sampling research and community engagement around silica sand mining operations in Northeastern Iowa and Wisconsin

Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations:

  1. sponsorship of four conferences and workshops that produced important state-of-the-art consensus documents that have been used by state legislatures, state environmental regulators and the U.S. EPA as a tool for pursuing official guidelines and enforcement actions
  2. expert testimony provided by EHSRC researchers at Iowa legislative committee meetings and the Iowa Environmental Protection Committee
  3. participation as experts in hearings held throughout the State after passage of Senate File 2293, a bill which specifically included air pollutants as regulated substances for concentrated animal production permit holders.
  4. Timeline of EHSRC's history with CAFO research, education, and community engagement.
  5. The Farm Bill: Implications for Public Health


  1. a pilot project funded by the Center for the Health Effects of Environmental Contamination to deliver information about the health effects of radon to the parents of newborn babies in Iowa
  2. educational talks to community groups and agencies
  3. expert testimony for the Iowa General Assembly, EPA, and WHO
  4. development of an educational video for physicians

Natural Disasters:

  1. Flood of 2008:  Fact Sheets prepared jointly by the COECs from U.I., UTMB, and Wayne State for previous flood disasters were “on the shelf” and ready to distribute. These EHSRC Fact Sheets were shared with public health authorities in Brisbane, Australia in their flood of December 2010.
  2. COEC staff and Center researchers also created a video on mold hazards which was widely distributed through the media and also posted on YouTube (Mold Hazards in Flooded Buildings).
  3. outreach to the University and to the health departments of Linn and Johnson Counties at the time air and surface samples were being collected and analyzed for chemical and biological contaminants
  4. The Iowa Flood Information System (IFIS) and Public Health: An Integrative Project of the EHSRC

Environmental Health Workshops for Midwest State Legislators:

  1. four educational workshops for state legislators were held in Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota in partnership with the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). Environmental health topics addressed in these meetings included: CAFOs, Radon, PCBs, Healthy Buildings, Climate Change, the Farm Bill 2012, Hydraulic Fracturing, and Renewable Energy Production. 

Science Cafes : 

  1. a collaboration between the EHSRC, the Iowa Superfund Research Program, and the Institute for Clinical and Translational Science, to engage rural Iowa communities with ongoing science efforts at the University of Iowa
  2. Science Cafe topics have included climate change, PCBs in household paints, asthma and the environment, hazardous chemicals, silica sand mining in the Midwest, water purification, Sex Differences and the Brain, and the 2013 Iowa City Landfill Fire

Aberdeen Area Tribal Communities Outreach

  1. co-hosted an asthma education conference for tribal health officers serving the Aberdeen Area in Rapid City.