A Two-Way Street: Building Lasting Community Connections
Tillett, Tanya, Environmental Health Perspectives
It is human nature to remain committed to endeavors in which one feels personally invested. For the parents and children involved in studies at the Mount Sinai Center for Children's Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research, most of whom are from low-income, minority communities such as East Harlem and the Bronx, this sense of commitment plays an important role in their continued participation in such studies. The center's Community Outreach and Translation Core (COTC) encourages this community kinship by partnering with community organizations to create workshops and educational activities that help keep children and their parents engaged in the studies.
According to COTC director Luz Claudio, the COTC staff have designed activities that pick up where organized educational activities at school leave off, encouraging children to learn new, useful information they can share with their parents. The activities are also culturally relevant and easy to take advantage, which makes it easy to keep them going.
Claudio says one main goal of these programs is to expose the study participants to realistic, positive role models in the medical profession to encourage their interest in future medical careers. Another is to remind study participants that, through their participation in center studies, they are part of a national effort to improve and protect children's health. "The COTC educational activities provide direct benefits to the participants that go beyond their participation as study subjects providing data," says Claudio. "They are truly our partners in the scientific endeavor."
In one current collaborative project popular with kids and parents alike, COTC staff have joined with the nonprofit City Parks Foundation to produce educational workshops aimed at increasing study participants' physical activity. Claudio points to a study published in the September 2006 issue of the American Journal of Public Health showing that low-income and minority neighborhoods have far fewer commercial physical activity-related facilities available. "This makes our workshops all the more important for these communities because there are few gyms or other sports facilities that are accessible to them," she says.
The workshops offered through the City Parks Foundation collaboration introduce the wonders of the outdoors to children who might not have spent much time there. …