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Published on October 01, 2020

Study to Look at the Health Impact of Living on a Landfill

Receiving the prestigious fellowship behind it is like “winning the Oscars.”

Greensboro – There are more than 650 old landfills in North Carolina. One sits beneath the Cottage Grove neighborhood in Greensboro. Heavy metals leach into streams and lead dust lurks just inches beneath the surface. A 3-year Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) fellowship will allow UNCG and Cone Health researchers to look at the health impacts and hopefully spur a cleanup of the area. The Cone Health/UNCG collaboration is one of only 15 in the nation to be awarded a fellowship. 

“This is like the Oscars of our work,” says Kathy Colville, healthy communities director, Cone Health. “But as much as we are honored by receiving this fellowship, we are more excited about what it means for the people in the community. This fellowship will help us better understand the impact on residents’ health today and hopefully, inspire actions for a healthier tomorrow.”

The principal investigators are Stephen J. Sills, PhD, UNCG Professor of Sociology and Director, Center for Housing and Community Studies and Sandra Echeverria, PhD, UNCG Associate Professor Department of Public Health Education. “I am thrilled to collaborate with my colleagues and community partners on this prestigious RWJF project,” says Echeverria. “This collaboration serves as a model for new ways to conduct rigorous research while centering equity and justice.” 

The project will develop a way to address similar situations elsewhere, involve the community in environmental issues and build a case for remediation of Bingham Park and area streams under the NC Pre-Regulatory Landfill Program.

“Partnerships like ours are rare and necessary for addressing environmental justice concerns. Restorative justice requires that the voice of the community is in the fore, supported by robust data and strong evidence,” says Sills.