The Community Engagement Core (CEC), working closely with the Human Subjects and Sampling Core, the Research Translation Coordinator, and the research projects, is the main vehicle for interaction with community stakeholders in Puerto Rico.
For the past decade PROTECT has been building a network of collaborators within the Community health centers and healthcare providers, participants in our study and surrounding community organizations.
PROTECT’s approach emphasizes bidirectional engagement with two groups of stakeholders: 1) women participating in the PROTECT study cohort, and 2) the broader group of residents in the areas where PROTECT’s groundwater study is being conducted, including collaborators at the Community Health Centers (CHCs) and clinics that serve as study sites.. The CEC provides public talks, trains health professionals about PROTECT’s work and environmental health in general, works with municipal governments and environmental groups, staffs information tables at health fairs, and produced educational brochures on environmental contamination and exposure reduction for the public as well as our participants.
CEC Members particpating in local health events.
Reporting Results to Participants and Community
In 2018, PROTECT introduced an interactive cell phone app that provides individualized report-back to study participants. The Report-Back App, developed with the Silent Spring Institute, helps to include participants in the research process, improves study recruitment and retention, provides individual exposure reduction information, and lays the groundwork for community-based participatory research projects. The tool was developed with the participation of collaborators from the Community health centers and participants in the study who provided valuable feedback and suggestions that have helped create the tool that continues to be improved. Interviews with participants about their understanding and use of the report-back information will help PROTECT learn how people take in and use this information, and will shape future applications or report-back in other research projects. The CEC has also pioneered group report-back sessions in which participants and their families join together to understand their body burden. Knowledge gained through this research will inform effective public health strategies for preventing preterm births in Puerto Rico and the U.S., and strategies to reduce exposures to environmental contaminants among pregnant women.