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Innovative Approaches for Improving Environmental Health Literacy (R43/R44 Clinical Trial Not Allowed)


Background The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) continues to support innovative and diverse partnerships to bring environmental health science concepts to various audiences with the goal of improving their environmental health literacy ( At the most fundamental level, environmental health literacy is the understanding of how environmental exposures can affect human health. However, its goal is to promote greater understanding and encourage action based on that knowledge (Finn and O’Fallon, 2017). Much of this work has been conducted through community engagement cores that are part of NIEHS-funded Centers, or through specific grant programs requiring partnerships among researchers, community residents, and educators ( There are opportunities to engage with small business concerns in the development of such materials and resources to advance environmental health literacy (Finn and O’Fallon, 2017). Examples of successful projects can be found on our Science Education page ( or on the PEPH webinar page ( Communication to and engagement with diverse stakeholders, including the general public, on environmental exposures that may influence the quality of their health is an important aspect of environmental health research. This FOA is expected to facilitate developing such resources that will help to improve their EHL and potentially stimulate action to prevent or reduce risk from harmful exposures. There is growing recognition that incorporating environmental health concepts into formal and informal settings can stimulate student interest in science. Research has demonstrated that real world, problem-based activities and hands-on tools that enable students to explore questions relevant to their lives are most successful. In addition, on-going work has shown that educators need the appropriate instructional support to implement activities, as well as materials with clear connection to national education standards. The purpose of this FOA is to engage the small business community to work with environmental health science researchers with an expertise in community engagement and/or research translation, and educators to develop tools, activities, or materials to build environmental health literacy for students, health professionals, and the general public. Objectives As part of its Partnerships for Environmental Public Health (PEPH) Program, NIEHS is interested in developing tools that build capacity, improve environmental health literacy, and support citizen science endeavors. In addition, there is a need for improved approaches for communicating Environmental Health Science concepts for diverse audiences, including K-12 education, undergraduate and graduate education, and information for health care professionals. These approaches or resources should be fit-for-purpose to meet the needs of the following audiences: community members, health care and public health professionals, educators, and students of all ages. Approaches may include: • Interactive digital media (IDM) that provide environmental health information about exposures of concern in food, air, water, or consumer products. These may include: IDM that provide the context for the exposures such as single or multiple, interacting exposures, level of exposure, frequency, and proximity to source IDM that can be adapted for various age groups (e.g., children or the elderly), races, ethnicities and/or languages IDM that visualize exposure risks with respect to levels of exposure, sources and health risks • Devices for collecting and reporting information on exposures in environmental samples (e.g., air, water, or soil) for educational purposes in schools or communities • Systems that can utilize public and voluntary population data on exposures from sensors, activity trackers, GIS enabled devices, social communications, and surveillance cameras; for example, to assist disaster response and communication (e.g., risk or health effects) • Educational resources related to environmental health in school settings or community education programs (e.g., Photovoice projects or GIS mapping) • Training materials for wider dissemination of risk information (e.g., toolkits for community leaders to build research capacity of other community residents). • Continuing medical education classes, on-line courses, or on-line tools to build the environmental health literacy of health care professionals Additional Considerations: Applications should clearly emphasize the environmental health focus of the educational tools or technologies that are being developed. Experts in environmental health sciences must be clearly integrated into the research and development activities. Research teams may include environmental science experts, education experts, technology developers, community-based researchers, and classroom teachers. Applicants are encouraged to include some evaluation and/or validation of proposed technologies by intended users. For Phase I applications this may focus on usability of the technology whereas, Phase II applications may also include an initial evaluation and/or validation of the effectiveness of the technology or approach in improving Environmental Health Literacy (EHL). Technologies or approaches to measure exposures in different media should not only focus on how data on exposure levels are collected and analyzed, but should include educational materials/activities on how exposures may impact human health, possible strategies for avoiding or reducing exposures, and strategies to disseminate environmental health information. Applicants are encouraged to consider how the EHL technologies or tools developed for a particular region or school setting can be adapted for more general use in other geographical regions or school settings or vulnerable communities/population. Responsiveness Applicants should provide clear, quantifiable milestones for the proposed research. Proposed technologies must address education and capacity building for Environmental Health topics; approaches that cover general STEM education or ecotoxicology without addressing environmental health sciences (EHS) concepts will be considered non-responsive to this solicitation. Note that research focused solely on exposure to pathogens in environmental media is not within the NIEHS mission. However, exposures to toxins produced by pathogens (e.g., aflatoxin, endotoxin, or mold toxins) are within the NIEHS mission.
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