The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences recently featured the Center’s ALERT project on their website as an example of an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) ”success story.”
ARRA is more simply referred to as the massive stimulus program launched by the Obama administration in 2009 that included, among other things, support for the nation’s top scientists and for research projects that improved the health and well-being of the American people.
ALERT, is the Health DATA Program-led project to give smog-clogged communities in Boyle Heights and Long Beach the tools and expertise they need to fight air pollution. These two communities both sit in the center of the goods movement corridor of Los Angeles, Long Beach being the home of one of the busiest ports in the world, and Boyle Heights straddling a warehouse district surrounded by freeways.
In the NIEHS story, Center Associate Director Steven Wallace and Health DATA Program Director Peggy Toy are interviewed about the achievements of the project to date, including a recent networking meeting among dozens of local community groups and scientific experts to see how they can join forces to use data and other credible evidence to improve air quality in their neighborhoods.
These communities are “bound together by being immigrant communities, by being affected by the goods movement, by mobile-source air pollution, and by having community organizations that are increasingly interested in health and air pollution issues,” Wallace said in the interview.
By bringing them together, we build ”a comfort level between community members and researchers to begin to work together and think about how they can further collaborate,” Toy added.
The ALERT project is unique in that it brings together both a network of academic researchers and representatives of community groups together to research mobile-source air pollution and work to improve the overall air quality conditions in these communities. Both groups benefit from one another; the researchers have an opportunity to engage with residents who encounter the problems they study and community members learn how health data can be an important policy advocacy tool.