Phase IV: Wrapping Up
Sharing Findings and Empowering the Community
As your public health work comes to an end, communicate about the wrap-up with the community and encourage them to continue activities to protect their health. Public health work during this Phase involves sharing public health conclusions and recommendations, summarizing public health implications, and sharing best practices for reducing and/or eliminating exposures to environmental contamination. The community engagement goals of this Phase are to enable the community to be better informed, better connected, and more resilient than when you started engagement efforts. Although ATSDR may be scaling back the time and resources allocated for the community, you still have a responsibility to stay open to relationships and to respond to communications from residents, state, territorial, local, and tribal (STLT) partners, or stakeholders as any future issues arise.
- What is the best way to share and report public health findings, conclusions, and recommendations to individual residents and tribes, community leaders, local elected officials, groups, and organizations?
- How will you complete your commitments to the community?
- How will you build the capacity of local leaders to support the community, and further community engagement work as needed, while dealing with the environmental contamination?
- How can you transition and hand over any actions, activities, or responsibilities?
- How will you evaluate the effectiveness of community engagement activities?
To prevent tension or frustration resulting from unmet or misunderstood expectations, regularly repeat the constraints of the public health work and expected outcomes in a positive way to stakeholders. This communication will serve as a reminder of ATSDR’s commitment to address concerns that are within the mission and scope of the agency. Finally, assist the community in identifying and connecting with other agencies and organizations that can help them address concerns that are beyond ATSDR’s mission.
Possible Community Engagement Activities:
Residents of neighborhoods near a factory petitioned ATSDR to investigate health concerns related to unpleasant-smelling air. ATSDR responded by visiting the community, listening to concerns expressed by members of a local non-profit organization, and identifying partners at federal and state environmental agencies who provided air quality data for the neighborhoods. ATSDR reviewed and analyzed environmental public health air quality data and wrote a public health consultation report with our findings and recommendations.
As the ATSDR team began wrapping up their efforts in the community, they worked with federal partners to develop a community workgroup to address community concerns at the site. Then, the EPA selected the local non-profit organization to receive technical assistance and funding for two community environmental projects. The funding enabled the community to address their identified concerns. ATSDR was able to leave the community knowing that community members had contacts, information, and resources to better manage their environmental health concerns.
The best strategies for wrapping up environmental public health work have their origins in earlier phases of community engagement. You build community capacity when you
- Set and maintain expectations of what your work can and can’t deliver,
- Identify community assets,
- Foster connections, and
- Develop collaborative and transparent relationships with community partners.
This ensures the community can continue to pursue their environmental goals after your exit.