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The University of Massachusetts Lowell recently was awarded $150,000 from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to educate New England health professionals on how to better understand, diagnose and prevent environmental health hazards faced by children. UMass Lowell was one of only seven organizations nationwide to receive such a grant from the EPA.
Lead researcher Prof. Stephanie Chalupka of the nursing department and Project Director David Turcotte of the Center for Family, Work and Community will conduct seven workshops ߝ one in each New England state, with two in Massachusetts ߝ targeting health professionals who work with children, especially nurses. They expect to reach about 200 such practitioners. Asst. Prof. Joel Tickner of the Community Health and Sustainability Department also will head the research effort, and Julie Villareal of the Center for Family, Work and Community will serve as the training program manager.
“What are the environmental health hazards that children might be exposed to? And how can practitioners address them?” says Turcotte, in defining the focus of the workshops. “We hope to have a major impact among health professionals, especially nurses working with low-income and minority children.” Studies have shown that those groups, along with immigrant and refugee children, are exposed to disproportionate levels of environmental health hazards and, particularly in smaller cities and rural areas, have less access to health care services than do others. Therefore, the project concentrates on those groups and locales.
“Nurses are often the initial ߝ and sometimes the only ߝ point of contact for people seeking health care in both rural and urban settings,” says Chalupka. “They visit patients in their homes and work with patients in schools and their communities, thus gaining firsthand knowledge of the potential environmental hazards.”
Funding is provided by the EPA’s Office of Children's Health Protection, whose mission is to promote environmental health protection for children and older adults in the United States and around the world.
“We now know that the natural environment is integrally connected with our physical health -- especially the health of our most vulnerable residents," says Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “By giving health professionals information on this connection, we can help protect children from possible hazards in their environment.” In a press release, he pointed out that Massachusetts was the only state to receive more than one of the seven grants. The other was awarded to Greater Boston Physicians for Social Responsibility.
For more details on each grant, go to: http://yosemite.epa.gov/ochp/ochpweb.nsf/content/building2005.htm