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LOWELL -- The University of Massachusetts Lowell recently was awarded $150,000 from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to educate New England health professionals on how to better understand, diagnose and prevent environmental health hazards faced by children. UMass Lowell was one of only seven organizations nationwide to receive such a grant from the EPA.
Lead researcher Prof. Stephanie Chalupka of the nursing department and Project Director David Turcotte of the Center for Family, Work and Community will conduct seven workshops ߝ one in each New England state, with two in Massachusetts ߝ targeting health professionals who work with children, especially nurses. They expect to reach about 200 such practitioners.
“It is essential that we address the environmental health hazards that our children face everyday, and that is just what the researchers at the University of Massachusetts Lowell are doing,” said U.S. Rep. Marty Meehan. “They have proven yet again what an asset they are to the Greater Lowell community - and, in this case, to all of New England,” he said. “I strongly support the University and the EPA funding that will be used to address these issues.”
“What are the environmental health hazards that children might be exposed to? And how can practitioners address them?” said Turcotte, in defining the focus of the workshops. He said that reaching children in a culturally relevant manner is important. “We hope to have a major impact among health professionals, especially nurses working with low-income and minority children.”
Studies have shown that those groups, along with immigrant and refugee children, are exposed to disproportionate levels of environmental health hazards and, particularly in smaller cities and rural areas, have less access to health care services than do others. Therefore, the project concentrates on those groups and locales.
“Nurses are often the initial ߝ and sometimes the only ߝ point of contact for people seeking health care in both rural and urban settings,” said Chalupka. “They visit patients in their homes and work with patients in schools and their communities, thus gaining firsthand knowledge of the potential environmental hazards.”
Funding is provided by the EPA’s Office of Children's Health Protection, whose mission is to promote environmental health protection for children and older adults in the United States and around the world.
Asst. Prof. Joel Tickner of the Community Health and Sustainability Department and Julie Villareal of the Center for Family, Work and Community also will assist on the project.
The University of Massachusetts Lowell, a comprehensive university with special expertise in applied science and technology, is committed to educating students for lifelong success and conducting research and outreach activities that sustain the economic, environmental, and social health of the region. UML offers its 11,000 undergraduate and graduate students more than 80 degree programs in the colleges of Arts and Sciences, Engineering and Management, and the School of Health and Environment and the Graduate School of Education. Visit the website at www.uml.edu.