Research Portal

September 13, 2023

Awardees of 2021 Population Health Institute Pilot Research Grants Final Project Outcomes

In March 2021, Population Health Initiative awarded 8 pilot grants. The team below includes CBE researcher Andrew Dannenberg, read more about their final project outcomes.

A Collaboratory to Support Equitable and Just Climate Action

Jeremy Hess, Departments of Emergency Medicine, Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences, and Global Health
Jason Vogel, Climate Impacts Group
Julian Marshall, Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering
Sara Curran, Jackson School of International Studies and Department of Sociology
Kris Ebi, Departments of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences and Global Health
Nicole Errett, Department of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences
Andrew Dannenberg, Departments of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences and Urban Design & Planning
Tania Busch Isaksen, Department of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences
Esther Min, Front and Centered
Deric Gruen, Front and Centered
Tim Sheehan, Department of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences

Project summary
The Collaboratory is an ambitious interdisciplinary partnership between several groups at the University of Washington (UW) and Front and Centered (F&C), a coalition of environmental justice organizations in Washington State. The goal of the Collaboratory is to bring together F&C’s expertise and experience with community engagement and translation of community priorities into policy platforms with the UW’s expertise in policy analysis and health impacts assessment to assess the potential health impacts of community priorities regarding decarbonization and develop a platform for visualizing these potential impacts. Decarbonization, which emphasizes a transition away from fossil fuels, has the potential for significant health benefits through reduced air pollution, increased active transpor, and other pathways. A just transition as envisioned by F&C will ensure that these benefits will accrue equitably to historically disadvantaged and frontline communities.

The project funded by the Population Health Initiative (PHI) had three specific aims (SA): SA1 was to develop a standardized, collaboratively owned, community-led process for soliciting, collecting, and reporting community priorities using qualitative research methods, to develop mechanisms for community data ownership, and to develop standardized practices for reflecting findings back and linking to larger policy platforms. SA2 was to develop a shared model for co-producing policy platforms, scenarios for policy analysis and health impact assessment (HIA), and two preliminary HIAs of priority policy platforms. SA3 was to develop a web-based platform for visualizing EHD and climate-related health risks, populated with baseline demographic, climate, land use, air pollution, and other information at census-tract levels, and to use the platform to present HIA results from SA2.

The Collaboratory began its activities in late spring of 2021 and is ongoing. The PHI’s initial investment in the Collaboratory is complete, and we are excited to report success across each of the Collaboratory’s three priority areas.

The Collaboratory achieved SA1 by developing and adhering to a shared, mutually agreed-upon process for developing priorities, generating data, sharing access to data and analyses, and communicating regarding the shared work. In service of SA1, members of the Collaboratory developed a 32-point Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that outlined the principles and practices for the agreement, including responsibilities and expectations of all parties, principles of partnership, community engagement, decision making, work ownership, and understanding regarding shared communication of the work. The MOU was signed by Collaboratory members as well as signatories for the two organizations. This MOU has served as a guiding document for other community engagements between organizations in the UW School of Public Health since it was developed and signed.

Progress on SA2 was steady but slower than anticipated given the unexpected complexity of the process. This complexity came from two sources: the need for shared learning about a number of topics, and the need for additional expertise not already available to the team. In regards to learning needs, members of the Collaboratory spent several months in shared discussion and learning focused on several areas, including F&C policy priorities for a just transition; Washington State’s plans for decarbonization; how the Shared Socioeconomic Pathways can be used to support modeling the health impacts of decarbonization; and requirements for using InMAP, co-investigator Marshall’s reduced form air pollution modeling platform. This learning and exploration was necessary, as each discussion led to a new set of learning needs in the group, but took longer than originally anticipated. In regards to needed expertise, in the policy development phase, F&C members articulated two priorities for the 2022 Legislative Session (see here), energy assistance and a just and equitable transportation standard, and identified the transportation standard as their priority for the Collaboratory. Estimating changes in air pollution source emissions associated with this standard required expertise in transportation network modeling that was not available to the team. At the end of the project, the team was not able to develop detailed policy scenarios for modeling, but the group had developed significant shared insight regarding processes and needs that will feed into next steps.

Despite slow progress on SA2, the team was able to make progress on SA3. Leveraging a platform developed by the Center for Health and the Global Environment (CHanGE) for visualizing health risks associated with climate-sensitive hazards, the team developed and finalized a fuzzy logic modeling approach and web-based visualization platform for characterizing health and equity impacts of emissions associated with different policy choices. The platform is operational for climate-related health risk modeling but has not yet been populated with data on decarbonization strategies, however, additional work will need to be done to provide guidance on data visualizations once these data are available.

After a year of concerted effort, the Collaboratory has developed a strong shared understanding and multiple processes for pursuing community-led policy analysis and health impact assessment. Collaboratory members also have a much deeper shared understanding of the processes, tools, and approaches available for pursuing shared goals, and of community members’ priorities regarding next steps in the just transition. Lastly, the Collaboratory has developed viable methods for modeling and depicting the health impacts of policy choices. The team has also identified additional needs for moving forward, including additional transportation modeling expertise.


Read more about the other pilot grant projects here.