Outreach Program of the Southern California Environmental Health Sciences Center and Children's Environmental Health Center (USC/UCLA)

Los Angeles

Description of Organization:
The Community Outreach and Engagement Core (COEP) of the Southern California Environmental Health Sciences Center and Children's Environmental Health Center (SCEHSC) serves as a link between Center scientists from the University of Southern California (USC) and University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and the community. The outreach program seeks to improve health by investigating environmental exposures, addressing risks from these exposures, and informing the community and public policy about new research studies on environmental health.


COEP’s mission is to increase public understanding of the effects of the environment on human health and ways to reduce harmful exposures, by linking the Center’s research and its team of interdisciplinary scientists with community, school, professional, business and policymaking constituencies, in order to translate research findings into knowledge applied to public health.

COEP Goals, Objectives and Primary Focus Areas:

COEP’s long-term goals are to positively impact public health policies and improve environmental health, by providing outreach and education to its constituencies. The ultimate goal of our Center’s research and outreach activities is to decrease morbidity and mortality from environmentally related illnesses. 

COEP’s objectives are to: 

  1. Establish mechanisms to determine community environmental health concerns.
  2. Foster collaboration and partnerships between Center scientists and diverse community constituencies to ensure that the Center’s research and outreach activities are relevant and address the needs of the community. 
  3. Translate Center research into information that can be used to inform public policy and public health, and disseminate Center scientific findings.
  4. Evaluate outreach efforts and make program changes as needed.


Primary Focus Areas:

COEP has developed three primary areas of current emphasis that guide its activities and programs. These include: 

  • Primary Focus 1. Respiratory illness and cancer. The Center has significant research emphases on respiratory illness and cancer, which are also significant community health concerns. The COEP draws upon the strengths of investigators from the Respiratory Effects Research Core, where long-term studies on children’s respiratory health are underway, as well as the Cancer Research Core, where there is an extensive history in studying the environmental causes of cancer and exploring the genetic modification of environmental risk factors.
  • Primary Focus 2. Exposure to air pollution, including traffic-related (mobile source) pollution. Air pollution is the number one environmental health concern of Southern Californians and a significant research focus of the Center. Mobile source emissions (from cars, trucks, buses, planes, ships, and equipment) are a particular emphasis of Center research activities since they account for 75% of the air pollution in Southern California. The COEP draws upon strengths of investigators from the Center’s Exposure Assessment Research Core and its Exposure Assessment and GIS Facility Core.
  • Primary Focus 3. Integration of environmental health concerns into the transportation planning and decision making processes. In order to reduce respiratory illness, cancer and other health impacts from mobile source air pollution, scientific findings on exposures and health effects must be integrated into the transportation planning and decision making processes. This focus area involves translating Center science on traffic-related air pollution in order to inform public policy in the transportation arena. A particular emphasis is on the environmental health impacts of international trade through the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and the movement of imported goods throughout the region. There is significant community concern because these Ports are the largest port complex in the United States, the number one single source of air pollution in the region, and imports are growing rapidly, resulting in a need to expand marine terminals, freeways, railyards and other transportation infrastructure. For this focus, COEP is able to draw upon the expertise of investigators from multiple Center research and facility cores. This focus has led to a new COEP initiative for the next grant cycle that will involve a health impact analysis, using a “burden of disease” approach to evaluate trade-related health impacts.






Excert from Environmental Health Perspectives Editorial


"Finally, as transportation and elected officials around the country call for expanding the nation's infrastructure (ports, marine terminals, highways, rail lines, and facilities) to promote growth in international trade, there is an urgent need--and a challenge--for "health" to become a more central part of the policy discussion."

- Andrea Hricko, Associate Professor at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California & Director of the Community Outreach and Engagement Program of the Southern California Environmental Health Sciences Center


Source: "Ships, trucks, and trains: effects of goods movement on environmental health." Environmental Health Perspectives, 2006.



Andrea Hricko is associate professor of preventive medicine and director of the community outreach and education programs for both the SCEHSC and the NIEHS/EPA-supported Children's Environmental Health Center. She has directed the COEP since 1997, previously serving for three years as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). She has written for Environmental Health Perspectives and has produced documentary films, handbooks, and curricula on both occupational and environmental health. Her interests include translating research findings into public health and policy initiatives; developing community-university partnerships; providing advice and information to policymakers and the public about the effects of air pollution on human health; and working with community-based organizations to educate their communities and local policymakers about these issues. She has a Masters of Public Health degree and serves on numerous local, state and federal task forces on goods movement issues.



Carla Truax joined the outreach team in 2005, after graduating with highest honors from Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota, with a BA in environmental studies. In her role as Outreach Coordinator, she works with organizations on community-based traffic counting and air pollution monitoring, serves as a link to the community for the scientific research of the Center, and helps THE Impact Project by coordinating meetings, creating materials, and organizing the "Moving Forward" Conference on goods movement.


The COEP recognizes and appreciates all of the hard work and determination that its student interns and student workers have shown throughout their time with the outreach program.  Thank you to all of the students and interns!


Contact Information:

(323) 442-2745

Maintained by the Trade, Health & Environment Impact Project