Sun Joo “Grace” Ahn named co-director of Center for Children’s Health Assessment, Research Translation and Combating Racism
Many Black communities in Metro Atlanta face high levels of environmental exposures that can negatively impact the health of Black children, and scientists are faced with the challenge of effectively communicating the dangers of environmental exposures to diverse communities. To address these issues, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has awarded a $4 million five-year grant to support research related to addressing health disparities through transformative communication strategies.
Sun Joo “Grace” Ahn, associate professor of advertising at Grady College, will direct the health communication initiatives of the grant and serve as co-director of the newly created Center for Children’s Health Assessment, Research Translation and Combating Racism.
With this grant, an Emory-led team of environmental health scientists and health communication experts from the University of Georgia will join forces to translate important environmental health research findings to key stakeholders in the community, academia and health care systems. The new Center will develop high-impact messaging strategies that can be used to improve children’s health by focusing on health literacy and best practices in prevention communication and dissemination.
Faculty from the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University and Spelman College, one of nation’s most prestigious historically black colleges for women, will also play a critical role in advancing the science generated by the Center and ensuring meaningful discussions and rapid feedback between a community advisory board and all members of the Center.
Linda McCauley, dean and professor at Emory University’s Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, will direct the new Center.
“This Center is uniquely positioned to foster excellence in research on children’s environmental health that will nurture the next generation of scientists and provide information that can benefit the Atlanta community, which has suffered from decades of environmental racism and has many of the highest levels of health disparities in the nation,” said McCauley. “Our goal is to improve the health of children, and we know better communications will lead to prevention and early detection of environmental health exposures.”
Ahn, who also directs the Games and Virtual Environments Lab at Grady College, will use her expertise in interactive digital media and health messaging at the new Center.
“We hope to expand the public health impact of children’s environmental health science by synthesizing existing research into innovative health communication interventions, curricula and policies,” Ahn said of the new project. “Together, we will identify target audiences among marginalized and under-resourced populations and design innovative health messages that can help us better communicate with audiences that have traditionally been challenging to reach.”
The Center will also partner with Sharecare, the digital health company whose comprehensive and data-driven virtual health platform helps people, providers, employers, health plans, government organizations, and communities optimize individual and population-wide well-being by driving positive behavior change.
Donna Hill Howes, RN, MS, chief nursing officer and SVP, corporate partnerships of Sharecare, commented, “Increasing access to information about children’s environmental health is critical to building strong, healthy communities. Working closely with our partners at Emory, UGA, and the Center, we believe that, together, we can effectively support the translation of health science to action-oriented information by leveraging our content and products, connecting stakeholders across fields, and utilizing our national reach to augment children’s environmental health.”
Emory is one of six academic institutions in a network of Children’s Environmental Health Research Translation Centers in the U.S., and it will serve as the National Coordinating Center for the network. The Coordinating Center will be led by Nsedu Obot Witherspoon, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Children’s Environmental Health Network. Other Centers were awarded to Johns Hopkins University, Oregon State University, the University of Pennsylvania, New York University, and the University of Southern California.
Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number P2CES033430. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.
NIEHS supports research to understand the effects of the environment on human health and is part of the National Institutes of Health.