competitive world of biomedical and public health research, the result is that research projects on environmental health and environmental justice represent a small proportion of the approved and funded projects. It also means that talented young researchers will be hesitant to assume the risk of committing to work that is considered unconventional and for which future funding is highly uncertain.
Conclusions and Recommendations
Public health research will be particularly important to improving environmental health and achieving environmental justice. The committee believes that an epidemiologic approach should be the central means of dealing with the environmental health problems in disadvantaged communities. This approach is hindered at the present time, however, by the shortcomings in current databases and data collection methodologies. New research models and techniques are needed. Communities of concern must participate in the identification of problems needing research and in the design and implementation of research.
Recommendation 1. A coordinated effort among federal, state, and local public health agencies is needed to improve the collection and coordination of environmental health information and to better link it to specific populations and communities of concern.
- Strategy 1.1 Expand efforts and resources for in-depth evaluations of health status and risk monitoring in communities of concern. These efforts should involve the members of the affected population in discussing and making decisions related to issues that may have adverse environmental effects on communities and making decisions related to the remediation of existing environmental health concerns.
- Strategy 1.2 Develop longitudinal, communitywide, baseline health assessments that provide both reason and context for studies specific to the impact of the environment.
- Strategy 1.3 Construct a reliable surveillance system that not only tracks health status (e.g., through the use of biomarkers) but that also signals disproportionate exposure.
- Strategy 1.4 Include members of minority groups in research to better describe specific susceptibilities and health effects.
- Strategy 1.5 Connect environmental exposure databases and up-to-date demographic data, including data on age, gender, race, ethnic background, employment, housing, educational attainment, and income.
- Strategy 1.6 Build strong links between public health practitioners and the community's broader array of medical, dental, and nursing professionals to stimulate greater sharing of data and experience.
- Strategy 1.7 Promote the wider distribution and dissemination of public environmental health databases.