Rapid Response Network of Scientists and Clinicians
As our country confronts unprecedented challenges and monumental change we are mobilizing scientists and health professionals to action on children’s environmental health and the use of science in decision-making. The UCSF Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment (PRHE) fills a unique niche in the geography of change. We are an academic research and research translation organization located in a world-class medical center, with a proven track record for harnessing the prestigious voice of environmental and clinical health scientists and practitioners on behalf of public policy that protects health.
Our immediate response to the realities of a new administration and Congress was to leverage the power of our position to rally our collaborators from academia, medical professional societies, and the NGO community to strategically defend children’s environmental health and science-based decision-making through a Rapid Response Network. In its first month 118 scientists and health professionals from 20 states and 7 countries signed up to be a part of our Network, and 38 participants called in for our inaugural kick-off meeting in January 2017. Members of our Network have the expertise and influence to effectively respond to public health-related events as they unfold across the U.S., ranging from commenting on proposed environmental (de)regulations and policies to actively supporting the efforts of the NGO community to hold local, state, and federal agencies responsible for their mandates to protect public health through legal and other potential strategies. We have already hired Dr. Trish Koman, a former EPA scientist, a graduate of our Reach the Decision Makers program, and now an epidemiologist based at the University of Michigan, to lead our Network.
While nascent, the Network has already begun to harness the voice of science and health experts to prevent exposure to toxic environmental chemicals, through interviews on NPR that reach 12.5 million listeners to signing comments to EPA on the need for health protective implementation of the new Toxic Substances Control Act. While given the current shift of our country’s politics and priorities ensuring strong implementation of federal chemical policy may seem like a luxury item for public action, only strong action will start to reverse our legacy of being ‘‘legally poisoned.’’ Chemical policy at the federal level is at a key stage of implementation, a vehicle for health equity, and is too important to leave in the hands of the chemical industry. We are rapidly expanding our capacity to target time-sensitive opportunities for public participation at the EPA and other federal/state/local agencies as well as respond to media opportunities, creating responses built from the best available science targeting the importance of environmental protection, toxic chemicals, the built environment, social disparities and injustice, and prevention.
During this time of transition and uncertain future for the effective enforcement of protective environmental health policies within the US, efforts to amplify individual scientific voices into a collective outcry are evermore critical. There is currently no shortage of opportunities. We need more capacity to effectively coordinate and organize our Network into concerted action. Already the demand is greater than our capacity.
In summary, we have gathered many preeminent scientists and clinicians together in a Rapid Response Network, we have hired an academic and former EPA official to lead the Network, we have realigned part of our existing scientific translation capacity to support the Network, and we will continue to seek funding to maximize implementation of this incredible potential through increased staffing and collaboration.