The Community Outreach and Engagement Core (COEC) of CACHET is co-led by Victoria Persky, MD (UIC) and Karen Kim, MD (UChicago). The COEC engages with underserved minority communities in Chicago to identify and address environmental hazards of concern.
Chicago is the third most populous US city with one of the most diverse populations, including an estimated 31.7% Caucasian, 32.9% African Americans, 28.9% Hispanic and 5.5% Asian. Chicago is also one of the most segregated US cities, with poor and minority populations localized to the south and west sides of the city – the primary catchment areas of UChicago and UIC. These communities have well-documented higher levels of exposures to environmental pollutants such as lead, other metals, indoor pollutants, and air and water pollutants. Unsurprisingly, community residents experience higher rates of common diseases primarily driven by environmental exposures such as asthma, COPD, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and lung cancer.
The COEC is initially targeting the far South East Chicago, a community with diverse exposures from industry and transportation. In its first phase the COEC is continuing to document environmental exposures and learning directly from community members about their environmental health concerns. Additional input comes from representatives of community organizations and other stakeholders on COEC’s advisory boards. Community organization leaders and staff will also participate in CACHET research Focus Group meetings, presenting community issues and information back to CACHET investigators. The long-term goal is for trans-disciplinary research teams to assist communities in addressing long standing and emerging environmental concerns. By working with our community partners and other stakeholders we aim to translate research findings into actions that health care providers, regulators and policy makers can take to improve environmental health-related outcomes.