The NIEHS Highlights PROTECT’s Translational Research Efforts
As part of a drive to show the benefits of environmental health research translation, the NIEHS developed and released stories about NIEHS-funded research projects that utilize a translational research framework. PROTECT was one of the centers highlighted, with the NIEHS emphasizing the center’s report back process, Mi PROTECT app, and cross-institutional collaboration.
Translational research refers to “the translation of environmental health research into concrete strategies that protect and improve human health.” To help scientists better understand this type of research, the NIEHS developed their Translational Research Framework with rings representing five translational research categories: fundamental questions, application and synthesis, implementation and adjustment, practice, and impact. The framework allows researchers to track ideas and knowledge as they move through the research process. It also guides researchers to make sure their science is impactful on human health.
The NIEHS applied their framework to PROTECT to demonstrate how the center’s success, both in terms of research findings and the close relationships between study coordinators and participants, is a result of translational research practices. As the NIEHS timeline demonstrates, PROTECT focuses research on contaminants that are most likely to be exposed to and detected in the Puerto Rican population. With this research focus, center investigators ensure that their findings are relevant to the study population. This focus also led to the implementation of the report-back component with Silent Spring Institute, which helps participants become better informed on their own health as well as strategies to improve their environmental health. This work strengthened the relationships between PROTECT and their participants, as well as the community at large, and made it possible for PROTECT to expand public health work during the Zika outbreak and disaster outreach following hurricanes Irma and Maria.
PROTECT’s community engagement and research translation efforts have resulted in improved environmental health literacy among study participants. Staff members at collaborating clinics have also experienced improved environmental health literacy. PROTECT continues to collaborate with community organizations and train health professionals at these organizations to better share info about environmental and chemical exposures so that individuals not involved in PROTECT can also strengthen their environmental health understanding. By utilizing a translational research framework, PROTECT has improved, and continues to improve, people’s understanding of environmental health and Superfund chemicals.
Read the full story about PROTECT’s research translation here. The full list of the NIEHS’s translational research stories is available here.