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Oak Ridge Reservation

Community Concerns and Communications Work Group

Historical Document

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Community Concerns and Communications Work Group

April 26, 2005 - Meeting Minutes


ORRHES Members attending:
George Gartseff (Chair), Kowetha Davidson, Karen Galloway, David Johnson, and James Lewis

ATSDR Staff attending:
Loretta Bush (phone), Marilyn Horton (phone), Bill Taylor, and Maria Teran-MacIver (phone)

Public Members attending:
Lynne Roberson

ERG Contractor:
Liz Bertelsen (phone)


Mr. Gartseff called the meeting to order shortly after 5:30 p.m. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the community education sessions sponsored by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) held April 18 and 19, 2005, in Oak Ridge and Kingston, Tennessee, respectively. Ms. Horton also detailed ATSDR's outreach efforts conducted for these sessions.

Public Outreach Evaluation

Presenter: Marilyn Horton, ATSDR

Ms. Horton prepared PowerPoint slides that outlined the public outreach efforts conducted for the community education sessions. She expressed her interest in obtaining feedback from the CCCWG on how outreach activities could be improved for future efforts. The outreach consisted of three objectives: a) inform the public about the community education sessions, b) gather questions and concerns, and c) provide a resource for additional information. Ms. Horton explained the activities performed to address each of these objectives.

The following activities were conducted to inform the public about the sessions:

  • Press release issued on April 8
    • Follow-up press calls made on April 11
    • ATSDR Oak Ridge Field Office received at least one local media call
  • Newspaper ads
    • Oak Ridge Observer
    • The Oak Ridger
    • Roane County News

  • Flyer mailed to 1,100 entities
    • Regular Oak Ridge Reservation (ORR) mailing list (about 230)
    • Selected churches
    • Selected physicians
    • Local cancer centers
    • Public officials
    • Libraries
    • Community organizations
    • Senior organizations
    • Local health departments
    • Environmental groups
    • Health groups

  • Posting on ATSDR/ORRHES Web site

  • Published in the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) monthly newsletter

  • Distributed to e-mail mailing list
    • ORR list
    • Roane County Chamber of Commerce
    • Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL)
    • DOE Y-12
    • ORR Local Oversight Committee (LOC)

ATSDR conducted the following activities to gather questions and concerns:

  • Contractor on site at April 18 session in Oak Ridge to capture community concerns
    • 37 attendees
    • three public speakers
      • community concerns will be entered into the Community Concerns Database

  • Contractor on site at April 19 session in Kingston to capture community concerns
    • 24 attendees
    • seven public speakers
      • community concerns will be entered into the Community Concerns Database

  • One e-mail question received in advance was addressed by Dr. Brent

  • Dr. Brent is available via the Health Physics Society (HPS) Web site under "Ask the Experts"

To provide resources for additional information, ATSDR conducted the following:

  • Three separate presentations by Dr. Brent were filmed
    • "Cause and Prevention of Human Congenital Malformations"
    • "Risks of Cancer From Low Radiation Exposures"
    • "Environmental and Genetic Causes of Human Cancer"

  • DVD of presentations will be distributed to
    • ATSDR Oak Ridge Field Office
    • DOE Information Center
    • Six local library repositories
    • Eight county health departments
    • Personal requests

Discussion on Public Outreach and Community Education Sessions

Dr. Taylor explained that he had also given a brief presentation to the Kingston City Council a week prior to the sessions.

Mr. Gartseff questioned the number of attendees who were not ORRHES members. Ms. Horton replied that five ORRHES members attended the first night; Dr. Taylor noted that five members attended the second night as well.

Mr. Lewis asked for a definition of attendees. Ms. Horton replied that this number included people who were present in the room during the sessions, which consisted of ATSDR staff and ORRHES members. She noted that about 12 public members attended each night. Dr. Taylor expressed his belief, however, that closer to 20 public attendees were present at each session.

Mr. Lewis expressed concern that the flyer did not appeal to the target audience, resulting in a low turnout at the sessions. He recommended that they review the July 14, 2004, New York Times article shown by Dr. Brent because it contained interesting content and demonstrated Dr. Brent's expertise.

Dr. Davidson disagreed with Mr. Lewis, expressing her belief that the flyer contained the appropriate amount of content displayed in an attractive format. She indicated that they could provide information and invite the public, but they could not make people attend. She noted that there might not be interest within the community.

Mr. Lewis explained that he had spoken with Dr. Brent, who indicated that issues often arise if a clinical approach is not taken when interfacing with communities because people are interested in how clinical aspects relate to their concerns.

Dr. Davidson noted that they had an opportunity to give comments to ATSDR on the flyer prior to its release. Ms. Horton added that Dr. Brent also had approved the flyer.

Mr. Lewis explained that his concerns related more to the general interest in the community than the particular flyer. He questioned having Dr. Brent present if he did not plan to address the community concerns of local residents.

Ms. Galloway expressed concern that the flyer indicated the same presentation would be given on both nights, and consequently, she did not attend the meeting she was most interested in. She noted her appreciation to ATSDR for holding the presentations, but indicated that they would have been received better if conducted earlier. However, Ms. Galloway stated that the sessions were valuable for those able to attend. She indicated that she was disappointed with the small number of attendees, and questioned how to improve their turnout.

Ms. Galloway also expressed her disappointment with the presentation held in Kingston. She said she had anticipated more back-and-forth dialogue with the audience versus a lecture format. Overall, Ms. Galloway indicated that she was pleased that these sessions took place, but noted improvements could be made when planning future sessions.

Ms. Horton explained that the ATSDR staff coordinating the meeting learned of the differing presentations during Dr. Brent's presentation on April 18. She asked Ms. Galloway if she was suggesting a question-and-answer type session with a panel of experts on different topics. Ms. Galloway indicated that interacting with the speakers would be more beneficial.

Dr. Taylor asked about the tapes of the meeting presentations. Ms. Horton explained that Bob Safay of ATSDR was working on combining the presentations with Dr. Brent's slides into one concise format. Dr. Taylor noted his preference for the first presentation, indicating that there was more consideration for the audience than during the second presentation.

Mr. Lewis referred to comments made by Herman Cember, who noted that every community he has seen has concerns about birth defects and cancer associated with radiation. Mr. Lewis indicated that a significant number of people have these beliefs, and therefore, these issues should be addressed.

Dr. Davidson expressed concern about giving false impressions when data do not exist to support links between certain health outcomes and exposures. She noted that issues of concern can be discussed, but without making links.

Mr. Lewis explained that Dr. Brent used newspaper articles to demonstrate how issues can be taken out of context. For example, Dr. Brent had shown a photo from Life magazine depicting a military man holding his child who had birth defects, suggesting a link between the birth defects and the father's military service. Mr. Lewis stated his belief that someone with a clinical perspective is needed to dispel and technically address these types of myths.

Dr. Taylor explained that Dr. Brent was brought to the sessions to respond to community concerns, which were captured and will be entered into the Community Concerns Database. Ms. Horton added that ATSDR held these sessions in response to an ORRHES recommendation, and indicated that the Division of Health Assessment and Consultation (DHAC) coordinated these sessions so that an expert could address some of the issues raised during subcommittee meetings.

Mr. Lewis expressed concern that specific issues and questions were not addressed. He suggested that promotional materials state that questions about previously released press materials, such as the highly publicized articles in the Nashville Tennessean, will be addressed.

Mr. Johnson noted that factors of trust must be considered. He also recommended using traditional and non-traditional approaches to target the community.

Ms. Galloway expressed her disappointment that Dr. Brent was not familiar with their particular area. She explained that she was anticipating him being able to respond to area-specific questions, such as how cancer incidence rates in their area compare to the country, but he was not.

Mr. Gartseff indicated that information has to be in an appropriate context to draw public attendees, and then promoted adequately.

Mr. Lewis questioned whether Dr. Bob Overholt of the "The Dr. Bob Show" was contacted. He explained that Dr. Overholt discusses various health topics with experts, such as heart disease, and asks them questions that the public is interested in. Mr. Johnson indicated that this show has a mass audience, and therefore, could be used to reach a significant portion of the local community.

Dr. Davidson stated that ORRHES needed to provide ATSDR with more specific details when making a recommendation, including the purpose, reason for conducting a certain activity, expected outcome, and intended audience.

Mr. Gartseff intended for ATSDR to learn from this constructive criticism and asked the agency to consider these comments in the future when planning community events and developing promotional materials.

Mr. Lewis questioned the timing of these community education sessions in relation to the release of the Cancer Incidence Review (CIR). Dr. Taylor noted that discussions were held on whether the presentations were more appropriate before or after the CIR, and a decision was made to hold the sessions prior to its release.

Ms. Galloway referred to a question received from a public member during the community session in Kingston. According to Ms. Galloway, the person asked Dr. Brent, "Why are you here?" She expressed concern that Dr. Brent was unable to provide an explanation.

Mr. Lewis reiterated his suggestion to consider the New York Times article when developing advertisements for future events. Ms. Horton noted that this could be added onto the next CCCWG's meeting agenda. Mr. Lewis agreed that this should be reviewed at the next meeting, particularly evaluating how the article presents community concerns.

Dr. Davidson noted that they could recommend that ATSDR not distribute the video if they decide it is not beneficial.

Mr. Lewis expressed concern about having a credible expert who is able to respond to the community's issues. Dr. Davidson suggested that Mr. Lewis outline his expectations beforehand.

Mr. Gartseff noted that they would provide ATSDR with specific suggestions in the future. He adjourned the meeting at 6:40 pm.

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