PROTECT Highlighted During Special Session at VI Puerto Rican Public Health Conference

May 28, 2024 | Community Engagement Core, Events, Human Subjects & Sampling Core, PROTECT Events and Presentations, PROTECT Team

Several Community Engagement Core researchers and staff members attended and presented during the VI Puerto Rican Public Health Conference on May 2nd and 3rd. The two-day event, coordinated by the Graduate School of Public Health of the University of Puerto Rico, Medical Sciences Campus, provided a forum for critically analyzing public health at both the national and international levels. Attendees represented public and private health organizations, service projects, academic programs, research centers, and community initiatives. PROTECT was an active presence throughout the event as researchers served on conference committees, participated in panels, and presented during a special session focused on the past decade of PROTECT’s work.

PROTECT was highlighted during a special session, titled ‘PROTECT Puerto Rico: Over a decade for justice in maternal-child environmental health in Puerto Rico,’ on the second day of the conference. CEC leader Carmen Vélez Vega, HSSC Co-Leader Zaira Rosario Pabón, Community Coordinator Héctor Torres Zayas, Data Coordinator Ishwara Ayala Ortiz, and Field Coordinator Natacha Guilloty Rodríguez spoke about the decade-long history of PROTECT, starting with the center’s inception and reasons for the cross-institution study design. The team then highlighted some of the community engagement strategies, like attending community health fairs, campaigns like PROTECT Responde, and the Mi PROTECT digital platform, that have served the population and contributed to environmental justice in Puerto Rico. In addition to the presenters, Report Back Coordinator Nobel Hernandez Otero, Communications Specialist Chrystal Galán Rivera, and Lab Coordinator Lilliana Gonzalez Medina provided vital support for the presentation.

Héctor presenting
Natacha presenting
Zaira presenting
The CEC was involved in the conference in ways outside of Friday’s special session. Dr. Vélez Vega served on the conference’s Logistics Committee as well as the Scientific Committee alongside Héctor, Nobel, and former trainee and Center for Collaborative Research in Health Disparities (RCMI) Community Coordinator Irene Lafarga Previdi. Dr. Vélez Vega also helped launch the conference by reading the event dedication to Taller Salud, a community organization focused on improving access to women’s healthcare and reducing violence in community settings, during Thursday’s Opening Ceremony. Later on Thursday, Héctor moderated the ‘Community Health’ panel, which featured conversations about mobile health clinics, development of health education tools, and community health initiatives at the University of the Americas, Chile. Dr. Vélez-Vega and Irene took part in the Social Determinants of Health session as part of the ‘Guide for the Analysis of Social Policies with a Gender Perspective in Puerto Rico’ panel. They also took part in Friday’s ‘The importance of community bonding in research related to health disparities’ session where they spoke about working with community members as part of both PROTECT’s and RCMI’s CECs.
Dr. Vélez Vega presenting
By promoting discussions between professionals from different backgrounds and sectors, the VI Conference promoted an exchange of information that allowed for a comprehensive understanding of public health. The varied participant backgrounds also encouraged public health integration and partnerships between community, university, and private sectors.

Thank you to the conference organizers for all their work coordinating this event and to all the other attendees for the engaging discussions!