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Community-Based Research for Effective Programs, Policies, and Decisions to Mitigate Cumulative Health Impacts and Environmental Health Disparities in Underserved Communities Request for Applications (RFA)
Environmental Justice (EJ) is an integral part of EPA’s mission to protect human health and the environment. The goal of EJ may be achieved when all people have the same degree of protection from environmental and human health risks or hazards and have equitable access to decision-making processes to maintain a healthy environment. Underserved communities are often faced with disproportionate cumulative impacts from environmental stressors.
In January 2021, President Biden signed Executive Orders (EO) 13985 and 14008 to advance racial equity and support for underserved communities and to address the climate crisis. These EOs provide a framework for stimulating action across the federal government to achieve environmental justice for all by addressing disproportionate and adverse human health, environmental, climate-related and other cumulative impacts on communities; especially communities with environmental justice concerns that may often suffer poorer health outcomes and have lower life expectancies because they are underserved as compared to individuals in other communities. Recognizing the need to bolster the scientific basis for identifying actions that can improve community health and well-being, and to select, implement, and evaluate these actions, EPA has made cumulative impacts research a priority.
Environmental health disparities or inequities caused by cumulative impacts from disproportionate exposures to pollutants (chemical stressors) and various environmental, social, economic, and psychological non-chemical stressors2 in underserved communities are of particular concern. There is substantial scientific evidence indicating that non-chemical stressors such as social determinants of health  (e.g., socioeconomic status, education access and quality, health care access and quality, neighborhood and built environment, social and community support) and racial/ethnic factors (e.g., discrimination, marginalization) significantly modify the health impacts (e.g., diseases, premature aging, increased allostatic load) from exposure to pollutants [2-23]. For example, racial/income disparities in access to municipal water supplies have been documented [24, 25] along with the impacts of exclusion from municipal water service on water availability and childhood blood lead levels [26-29]. The EPA Report, Supplement to the 2019 Integrated Science Assessment for Particulate Matter, confirms evident environmental exposure and health disparities for PM2.5 in underserved communities of predominantly minority populations with low socioeconomic status .
The Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Program’s goal is to stimulate and support scientific and engineering research that advances EPA’s mission to protect human health and the environment. It is a competitive, peer-reviewed, extramural research program that provides access to the nation’s best scientists and engineers in academic and other nonprofit research institutions. STAR funds research on the environmental and public health effects of air quality, environmental changes, water quality and quantity, hazardous waste, toxic substances, and pesticides.
Deadline: Aug. 31, 2023
Areas of Interest
Applications that integrate a diverse field of disciplines and methodologies (social sciences [such as economics, sociology, anthropology, etc.], environmental health, public health, communitybased participatory research, epidemiology, engineering, environmental science, biology, statistics, toxicology, chemistry, etc.) to address the complexity of the research problem are strongly encouraged. Note that non-chemical stressors (e.g., social determinants of health such as nutrition, social conditions, stress, socioeconomic status and cultural factors) cannot be considered alone, but applicants are required to include them as secondary or modifying variables to the contaminant(s)/chemical stressor(s).
Applicants are strongly recommended to incorporate existing data (e.g., epidemiological, environmental, social, biological, healthcare, public health) and use mixed methods approaches. The proposed research should be comprehensive and include quantitative and qualitative data to characterize specific cumulative impacts from pollutants, non-chemical environmental stressors, and modifying factors that exist in specific underserved communities in the United States. The proposed research should also describe how results could inform effective decision making leading to potential preventive measures, programs, educational or practical community outreach, risk communication messages, platforms, tools, or engagement efforts. The goal is to provide solutions and tools to practitioners in the field of environmental justice, including state and local agencies, community organizations, environmental planners, and policymakers.
Public and private nonprofit institutions/organizations, public and private institutions of higher education (IHEs), and hospitals located in the U.S. and its territories or possessions; state and local governments; Federally Recognized Indian Tribal Governments; and U.S. territories or possessions are eligible to apply. Profit-making firms and individuals are not eligible to apply.
If an applicant submits more than one application under this announcement, each application must be submitted separately, and the scope of work proposed in each application must be significantly different from the other application(s) in order for them to all be deemed eligible. If applications are submitted with scopes of work that do not significantly differ, then EPA will only accept the most recently submitted application and all other applications will be deemed ineligible.
It is anticipated that a total of approximately $10 million will be awarded under this announcement, depending on the availability of funds, quality of applications received, and other applicable considerations. The EPA anticipates funding approximately five awards under this RFA. Requests for amounts in excess of a total of $2,000,000 per award, including direct and indirect costs, will not be considered. The total project period requested in an application submitted for this RFA may not exceed 3 years.