The environments in which we live, work, study, and play have a great impact on our health. Environmental health science embraces all the physical, social and built infrastructure that affects health. Today, the Swetland Center continues Mary Ann Swetland's legacy by building partnerships to find and scale solutions to redress the environment's disparate impact on low-resource populations in Cleveland and beyond.
The mission of the Mary Ann Swetland Center for Environmental Health is to study the complex interplay between environmental determinants and population health outcomes. The center places special emphasis on community-engaged approaches that address the role of structural racism in creating and sustaining environmental health inequities. We seek to translate these findings into policies, practices, and relationships that promote community and population health equity.
The strategic vision of the Swetland Center is to leverage diverse skills and experiences through transformative research, training and community engagement in order to achieve environmental health equity by:
- Advancing applied and community-engaged environmental health research
- Integrating environmental health and community systems science into medical and graduate education
- Engaging the community in research translation to inform changes in policy and practice
We believe... in the strength of our collective voices, knowledge, and individual experiences as foundational strands woven together to form a tapestry of co-creation.
We believe... that organizational transparency and elevation of community power and voice is essential to building trusting relationships between research staff and the broader community to achieve environmental health equity.
We believe... in acknowledging and honoring diverse traditions, learning styles, and experiences of individuals and value the dignity of all people. We work to promote an environment that respects the unique experiences and richness of its members.
We believe... that honoring differences is foundational to cultivating a culture of innovation and changing the status quo.
We believe...in partnering with the community to build sovereignty and promote environmental justice by sharing power, igniting change, and dismantling racist structures. We seek to enact Research, Community Engagement, Training, and Education that heals historical scars and ongoing trauma of structural racism.
The Swetland Center has a three-pronged approach that will be achieved through three cores within the center related to research, training, and education, and community engagement. Our goal is to build capacity for the next generation of scientists to work alongside our community partners to promote healthy places for people to thrive.
1. Community Engagement for Environmental Justice
Our approach emphasizes community engagement to achieve the goal of environmental justice. Efforts are made to bring the right people to the table. We focus on building trusting relationships to ignite change. With an eye on translation, our goal is to collaborate to ensure scientific evidence reaches the right audiences at the right time.
2. Innovative Research and Training Methods
These center around three primary areas that will become cornerstones for future training:
- Ecological methods that allow for a deeper understanding of the interconnections between the environment and health.
- Systems methods that show complexity, interdependencies, nonlinear relationships, and time delays so often true for environmental exposures.
- Computational methods that promote efficiency to inform decision tools for use by key stakeholders in public policy, government, and community organizations.
3. Solution-Oriented Research
The third part of our framework is related to our overall strategy. Our research is focused on intervention development, implementation, evaluation, and dissemination to inform policies and practices. The time is ripe in Cleveland for us to move beyond describing environmental health problems. Our focus will be on finding and scaling solutions to promote environmental health equity.