Stepping In

A person speaking.
The community of City Town just found out that their primary source of drinking water has been contaminated by chemicals.

It is believed that the contamination is due to chemical releases from a neighboring manufacturing plant. Many residents are worried and angry, others are confused, and some people think concerns are overblown. Community members churn over a series of questions. These include:

  • Are we going to get cancer?
  • Will my kids get sick?
  • Is the water safe to drink?
  • Did the contamination cause my skin rash?
  • How do I protect my family from ongoing exposure?
  • Who do I turn to for help?
  • Should I sell my house and move?

Then, community members hear on the radio that someone from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) is coming to town.

“Finally,” they think, “someone might be able to help us.”

That is just one of many possible scenarios you may be walking into when you enter a community.

ATSDR defines community engagement as the process of working collaboratively with and through groups of people to address issues that affect the group’s well-being. The group of people may be connected by geographic proximity, special interests, or similar situations [HHS 2011]. (See section: Glossary of Terms).

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Page last reviewed: December 15, 2021