An estimated 500 residents of Salinas Valley, California, attended a successful community forum in December 2012 hosted by the Center for the Health Assessment of Mothers and Children of Salinas, or CHAMACOS. The annual event recognized the contribution of the hundreds of families who participate in the study and allowed the project team to share their most recent findings.
CHAMACOS is conducted by the Center for Environmental Research and Children’s Health (CERCH) at UC Berkeley. Approximately 600 pregnant women were enrolled in the study from 1999-2000. Researchers have followed the children from birth through age 12 to investigate the effects of pesticides and other environmental exposures on childhood development.
The Center’s findings receive widespread attention. For example, the San Francisco Chronicle reported on their paper that linked polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) exposure to attention deficits and the lowering of IQ in children. In December, researchers from CERCH received the “2012 Paper of the Year Award" from the journal, Environmental Health Perspectives, for their article linking exposure to organophosphate pesticides with adverse effects on cognitive development. And in March 2013, they were recognized by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation with its Innovator Award.
Less known is the Center’s success with community outreach, such as the forum in December. “We make it a fun event with food and engaging presentations so that our participants enjoy themselves while learning,” said Daniel S. Madrigal, the coordinator of Community Outreach for CHAMACOS.
The invitation-only event is timed to coincide with the end of the agricultural season so more participants from the farm working community can attend, according to Madrigal. Although their primary goals is to share study results, the research team goes the extra mile to make it a special event that encourages participant retention, offering games, activities,and prizes for children.
Visiting the CHAMACOS field office has become routine for hundreds of kids who have taken part in the study their entire lives. “The forum gives them a better understanding of why they’ve been coming to the clinics since they were in their mother’s womb,” explains Madrigal.
Community outreach and translation is an essential part of CERCH, enabling scientists to integrate community feedback into their research and ensuring study results are understood within the Salinas Valley community and beyond. To learn more, visit their website: http://cerch.org.
Find CERCH journal articles: http://cerch.org/publications-2/directory-of-publications.
The study has received funding from the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
Find this article and others online at http://coeh.berkeley.edu/bridges