Schandera Louisa

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Schandera
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Louisa
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A strategic framework for community engagement in oceans and human health

2022-04-14 , Carson, Margaret A. , Doberneck, Diane M. , Hart, Zac , Kelsey, Heath , Pierce, Jennifer Y. , Porter, Dwayne , Richlen, Mindy L. , Schandera, Louisa , Triezenberg, Heather A.

Over the past two decades, scientific research on the connections between the health and resilience of marine ecosystems and human health, well-being, and community prosperity has expanded and evolved into a distinct “metadiscipline” known as Oceans and Human Health (OHH), recognized by the scientific community as well as policy makers. OHH goals are diverse and seek to improve public health outcomes, promote sustainable use of aquatic systems and resources, and strengthen community resilience. OHH research has historically included some level of community outreach and partner involvement; however, the increasing disruption of aquatic environments and urgency of public health impacts calls for a more systematic approach to effectively identify and engage with community partners to achieve project goals and outcomes. Herein, we present a strategic framework developed collaboratively by community engagement personnel from the four recently established U.S. Centers for Oceans and Human Health (COHH). This framework supports researchers in defining levels of community engagement and in aligning partners, purpose, activities, and approaches intentionally in their community engagement efforts. Specifically, we describe: (a) a framework for a range of outreach and engagement approaches; (b) the need for identifying partners, purpose, activities, and approaches; and (c) the importance of making intentional alignment among them. Misalignment across these dimensions may lead to wasting time or resources, eroding public trust, or failing to achieve intended outcomes. We illustrate the framework with examples from current COHH case studies and conclude with future directions for strategic community engagement in OHH and other environmental health contexts.