The Exchange Project was developed with support from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (Grant # ES012079). The project is administered from the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and includes many partners (see Project Team below). The project consists of distinct yet inter-related components:
Assessment. The Exchange Project began with the development of case studies on several communities experiencing environmental health concerns in the Piedmont region of the state. At the same time, staff conducted interviews with over 100 stakeholders working in environmental health promotion in North Carolina. Stakeholders included environmental health researchers at major universities and private research firms across the state; government officials working on environmental health issues in the Division of Public Health (DHHS) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR); attorneys in the private and public sector who work on policy and litigation; and community members affected involved in varying stages of investigation, planning and protest regarding environmental health issues. These in-depth interviews are being content-analyzed. Many themes have emerged from the data including: “bureaucratic responsiveness,” “systems dynamics,” and “perceptions of professionals and community members.” We plan to disseminate this information through professional and public channels including peer-review manuscripts, presentations, and facilitated dialogues. The findings will continue to inform other components of the project.
Education. The Exchange Project website is designed to translate research and information for use by the general public. We believe providing educational materials, research findings, and dialogue methods directly to professionals and citizens promotes environmental health. Teachers, researchers, officials, attorneys, community members and students can use our website to learn about environmental health issues through a 3-stage progression of curriculum: 1) Background information about topics and issues; 2) Stories from real people in real communities dealing with various environmental health concerns; 3) Facilitated learning experiences to initiate dialogue, such as participation in Reader’s Theater skits or Discussion Groups to critically reflect on commercial and documentary films related to environmental health issues. Additional discussion triggers are in development and as they are piloted they will be added to the website. Teachers and community organizers who have used the materials have found them helpful, informative, engaging, and easy to use. We are actively seeking support to further disseminate these educational materials and eventually would like to offer a training workshop for community facilitators and high school teachers.
Dialogue. The Exchange Project is building toward a vision of dialogue in North Carolina involving stakeholders from many perspectives. Our state is uniquely positioned because of the research institutions, government capacity, and informed community groups. We hope to provide findings from our research that will engage these groups in systems-level considerations that may evolve into social, environmental and governance structures that truly promote environmental health in our state. This effort is just starting, and we are actively seeking support to “incubate” such an inter-disciplinary, systems-level project that could result in improvements to health outcomes, research methods, ethical awareness and responsiveness, and increased perceptions of North Carolina being a state that secures environmental justice for everyone.
The project was advised by a team of collaborators who are listed below:
NC Environmental Justice Network
North Carolina Fair Share
Land Loss Prevention Project
Savi Horne, JD
Annette Hiatt, JD