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$600,000 NIH Grant for Colorado School of Public Health Community Climate Hub

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A collaborative group from Colorado School of Public Health (ColoradoSPH) has been awarded $600,000 from the National Institutes of Health to support the first year of work for the newly-established Mountain West Alliance for Community Engagement-Climate and Health (ACE-CH) Hub, a community of public health researchers and community members working to identify evidence-based and community-driven action in the face of the climate crisis. 

This interdisciplinary team, in partnership with the NIH’s Community Engagement Alliance and its Community Engagement Technical Assistance Center, is led by principal investigators Katherine James, PhD, MSPH, MS, associate professor, and Katherine Dickinson, MS, PhD, assistant professor, both from the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health and the Center for Health, Work & Environment in ColoradoSPH at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. The team will build relationships with rural and urban communities in Colorado to understand how they experience climate and air quality impacts, and to identify opportunities to advance climate justice. 

The Hub will assemble two community advisory boards from West Denver and the San Luis Valley (SLV) in Southern Colorado to begin meeting with community members to discuss their lived experiences and priorities as it relates to climate impacts in their lives.  

“Climate change is affecting all communities, but it isn’t affecting them all in the same ways,” said Dickinson. “West Denver has long faced environmental injustices related to air quality, traffic, and industrial pollution, while drought and wildfires are big concerns in the rural SLV. Listening to community members to learn how climate change is interacting with these long-standing challenges, and supporting resilience-building efforts in both of these areas, are key objectives of the Mountain West ACE-CH Hub.” 

Since 2019, Dickinson has worked in West Denver to understand how housing redevelopment is affecting residents’ health and well-being. Her research focuses on climate change, extreme weather events, and wildfires as well as assessing individual and policy decisions that shape collective resilience and environmental justice.  

James is an environmental and climate health specialist who has conducted community-based research in the SLV for over 15 years. She currently works with the major health provider systems in the SLV on air quality and health outcomes. Additionally, James is currently leading five community-based research studies employing household surveys and environmental monitoring. 

“We know that community engaged research requires establishing trust and building strong relationships between academic institutions and affected communities. These relationships take time to develop and require credible commitments to long-term, sustained partnerships. In all our efforts, we strive to conduct equitable, community-driven research that is urgently needed for climate justice,” said James.  

The first year of the study is launching this month with the formation of Community Advisory Boards from West Denver and the SLV, as well as a statewide Policy and Practice Advisory Board and a Science Advisory Board. By the end of the year, the team will work with these boards to produce an Engagement Report that synthesizes key findings on climate and air quality concerns and priorities for action in West Denver and SLV. The report will also detail research, practice, and policy agendas to pursue climate action through multiple channels (such as local, state, and federal climate justice grants). 

About the Center for Health, Work and Environment 

The Center for Health, Work & Environment (CHWE) at the Colorado School of Public Health is one of 10 Centers of Excellence for Total Worker Health® and houses the Mountain and Plains Education and Research Center, one of 18 centers of its kind supported by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Main offices for the Center are located at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, Colorado. The Center team works with faculty, students, and community partners on numerous projects in occupational and environmental health, safety, and well-being. 

About the Colorado School of Public Health 

The Colorado School of Public Health is the first and only accredited school of public health in the Rocky Mountain Region, attracting top tier faculty and students from across the country, and providing a vital contribution towards ensuring our region’s health and well-being. Collaboratively formed in 2008 by the University of Colorado, Colorado State University, and the University of Northern Colorado, the Colorado School of Public Health provides training, innovative research and community service to actively address public health issues including chronic disease, access to health care, environmental threats, emerging infectious diseases, and costly injuries.