Advancing Environmental Health Literacy Through Community-Engaged Research and Popular Education



This chapter describes the process of increasing and sustaining environmental health literacy (EHL) within communities impacted by environmental hazards and associated health conditions through the comprehensive engagement of community members in environmental health research and education projects. The chapter discusses the use of popular education approaches to facilitate more effective collaboration and optimize mutual co-learning among community members and their project partners. It also explores how, by using this approach, community members can contribute their own knowledge and awareness of environmental and health conditions to advance the research and education process, thereby increasing the EHL of their academically-credentialed partners.

Examples from several community-engaged research and education projects are shared to illustrate the versatility of these approaches as a means of raising EHL in a variety of contexts, including researcher-initiated scientific studies, community-initiated trainings, and co-initiated research projects. The case studies demonstrate how popular education and community-engaged research approaches can contribute to building and sustaining more equitable partnerships between impacted communities and their partners (who may be based in varied institutional settings such as academia, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations), with an emphasis on mutual co-learning and knowledge co-creation among community and academically-credentialed partners as key drivers of increased EHL.


Community-based participatory research Community-engaged research Community engagement Community participation Knowledge co-creation Mutual co-learning Popular education 



We would like to thank our colleagues from project partner organizations involved in the case studies highlighted in this chapter for reviewing and contributing their ideas to help shape earlier drafts: Kimberly Harley, Katherine Kogut, and James Nolan of the UC Berkeley Center for Environmental Research and Children’s Health (CERCH); and Adenike Adeyeye, Brian Beveridge, Paul Cummings, Joel Ervice, Frank Gallo, Ms. Margaret Gordon, Michael Kent, Anna Lee, and Jill Ratner of the Ditching Dirty Diesel Collaborative (DDD). We’d also like to thank the Community Steering Committee and the entire project team of the Imperial Air Project at CEHTP, CCV, UW, UCLA, and GWU. Liam O’Fallon and Symma Finn at National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences and Rick Kreutzer at California Department of Public Health provided insightful comments on previous chapter drafts. Lastly, we extend our heartfelt appreciation to all the community members and project participants who shared the experiences, knowledge, and leadership that made the content of this chapter possible, though the views expressed in this chapter and any errors are of course our own.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.California Environmental Health Tracking ProgramRichmondUSA
  2. 2.Comite Civico del ValleBrawleyUSA
  3. 3.University of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA

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