APPLETREE and PEHSUs Collaborations
PEHSUs and APPLETREE grantees pivot to COVID-related community care and education.
ATSDR’s Partnership to Promote Local Efforts to Reduce Environmental Exposure (APPLETREE) grantees have played a critical role around the country in helping their states and communities respond to the pandemic. In Michigan, APPLETREE program staff provided guidance and answered questions related to COVID-19 disinfection protocols. In New Jersey, staff developed and distributed a fact sheet to guide safe disinfectant usage, including choosing appropriate application methods to avoid potential hazardous substance exposure in school settings.
ATSDR-supported Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units (PEHSUs)external icon in all 10 regions are dedicated to improving environmental health education. Although in-person educational events could not be held, PEHSUs quickly adjusted to offer virtual education events. They provided outreach through social media, websites, videos, and adaptive events. For example, Region 8 converted its soilSHOP program into a socially distanced, drive-up event. SoilSHOP is a free community event that helps community members determine whether dangerous lead levels are in their soil. Through the Healthy Environments Consortium, PEHSUs organized stakeholder collaboration on initiatives related to safer disinfectant use to streamline activities, ensure consistent messaging, and increase the effect disinfectants can have in stopping the spread of COVID-19.
PEHSUs were awarded funding through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act for activities related to safe disinfectant use. In collaboration and partnership with the American College of Medical Toxicology and ATSDR-allocated funding, a series of webinars were hosted, and fact sheets were developed for the public about the use of disinfectants. To increase knowledge about the use of safe disinfectants and COVID-19 risk reduction practices, PEHSU offices created an Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes curriculum for healthcare professionals about providing guidance on safer disinfectant use and COVID-19 risk reduction practices to families. For additional examples of PEHSUs COVID-19 collaborations, see the “Safe Sanitation and Disinfection Collaborations” section (Link to Safe Sanitation section in 2020 ATSDR Annual Report). PEHSUs also endorsed the Association of State Public Health Nutritionists’ Clean Away COVID-19 campaign.
In Region 6, the ATSDR-funded PEHSU for the Southwestern states saw a need and developed the Pediatric Environmental Health Grand Rounds Series during the COVID-19 pandemic to continue healthcare professional education. The series was held twice a month, from June to December in 2020, then transitioned to once a month beginning in 2021. Several regional collaborators and core faculty at the Southwestern Center for Pediatric Environmental Health presented various environmental health topics affecting children and nearly 900 healthcare professionals have received education through this series.