The importance of combining state-of-the-art research with the translation of this work to the community has been an integral component of the Children’s Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research Centers program since its inception by the EPA and NIEHS 15 years ago. Here at the Dartmouth Center we aim to engage a wide range of stakeholders to protect the environmental health and wellbeing of children in a sustainable manner. Key members of our community are the mothers who are participants in our Birth Cohort study, the health care community, and parents. Given our researchers focus on mechanisms and effects of early life exposure to metals, in particular arsenic in food and water, the COTC seeks to explore ways to incorporate these findings into clinical care and public health practice.
Currently we are focused on our partnership with a network of primary care practices throughout New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine- The Dartmouth Northern New England Primary Care Cooperative, also known as the “Dartmouth CO-OP”. Through our project we will be working with selected practices in regions where there are a high percentage of families on private water systems to identify the best practices for integrating promotion of well water testing into routine pediatric preventive care. This involves both education of the parents as well as the health care team on the basics of drinking water safety and testing, with particular emphasis on the regional importance of natural arsenic contamination.
Participants in our birth cohort study that now numbers over 1000 are a high priority community for our Center. Through focus groups and surveys we are seeking their input into how best to communicate well water testing results, how best to design educational materials, and to better understand where they obtain the environmental health information they use to make decisions about their own health and that of their children. We will then use this information to inform the development of educational resources, both written and web based, to support the informational needs of our stakeholders and provide a platform for our scientists to share their findings.