environmental justice

LISTEN: Max Aung and Tracey Woodruff on shaping environmental chemical policy

"Policy is the most upstream way to deal with a lot of these pollution exposures."

Dr. Max Aung and Dr. Tracey Woodruff join the Agents of Change in Environmental Justice podcast to discuss how and why they use their science to drive policy change on harmful environmental chemicals.


Aung (former Agents of Change fellow and current associate research scientist) and Woodruff (Alison S. Carlson Endowed professor and director) are both researchers at the Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment at the University of California, San Francisco. They talk about how public policy change is one of the most efficient ways to reduce people's exposures to harmful chemicals and pollution.

The Agents of Change in Environmental Justice podcast is a biweekly podcast featuring the stories and big ideas from past and present fellows, as well as others in the field. You can see all of the past episodes here.

Listen below to our discussion with Aung and Woodruff and subscribe to the podcast at iTunes, Spotify, or Stitcher.

If you want to learn more about Science Response Network at UCSFor sign up for the newsletter, email Swati Rayasam Swati.Rayasam@ucsf.edu.

Transcript

Ami Zota

All right, well we have two special guests today on the Agents of Change podcast. I'd like to welcome Dr. Tracey Woodruff.

Tracey Woodruff

Hello Ami.

Ami Zota

And Dr. Max Aung.

Max Aung

Hi Ami, great to be here.

Ami Zota

And Tracey and Max, where are you two based at today. Where are you calling in from?

Tracey Woodruff

Oh, where am I calling in? I'm calling in from the East Bay in California. So the Oakland area.

Ami Zota

And how is your air quality today?

Tracey Woodruff

Well it's pretty good out there.

Ami Zota

That's good.

Tracey Woodruff

I think that the fires at the moment have been, are under control, such that there are any.

Ami Zota

That's good to hear and Max, where are you based at?

Max Aung

Yeah I'm calling in from Bakersfield, California, which is in the Central Valley, and the air quality is unhealthy for sensitive folks, I think.

Ami Zota

Yeah. And just to give it some more context, Max was part of our first Agents of Change cohort and he actually wrote about his hometown of Bakersville in his essay. So shout out for people to check that out. Um, so it's really fun to have you both on here, because we all work on environmental chemicals and public health, and, you know, because we do cover such a broad range of topics, why don't we just start off by, you know, sharing a little bit about why, why you care about environmental chemicals, as both a public health issue and as an environmental justice issues. Tracey, do you want to get us started?

Tracey Woodruff

Sure, I'm happy to start and I, I think this topic is so important. And the reason I think it's really important is because, one, we're all exposed to these chemicals. So just to like back up a little bit about like what do we mean by chemicals: So they're all these different chemicals are used to make products that we use, like, whether it's like personal care products like shampoos and lotions, or might be our building materials like our floor and our furniture, or it might be in our cleaning products, or it could be what people kind of think is more traditional sources like pollution, air pollution coming out of a smokestack or cars or things like that. And the reality is, the scientific facts are that we're all exposed to these chemicals, and many of these different chemicals, and there's 1000s of them that are produced in the United States. It's such a high number, it's kind of hard to conceptualize, but in the US there's 40,000 chemicals that are registered to use in the US, globally it's 350,000. So that's a lot of chemicals, so we're inevitably exposed to them and we know we're exposed to them because we measure them in people's bodies. And the challenge or the reason why I think it's so important is because we know they can change your biology in some way or perturb your biology in some way and they can increase the risk of adverse health effects. But we are both limited in our understanding about exposures, and how they can affect our health. But once we know how that happens, and we take actions to address them, we can actually see improvements in reducing exposures and improvements in health. So I feel like this is a really undervalued area of health, of contributors to health. So that's the first thing. And then the other is, we know that there are communities or groups of people that are more highly exposed, and that includes communities of color, Black families or Hispanic families, and we know these are also the groups that have higher rates of many different kinds of chronic diseases because we know there's, why there's, what health inequities in many different health outcomes. So one of the other reasons I think it's so important is because I think that chemical exposures is probably a very important risk factor for health inequity. So it's really critical that we, we contribute our science to solving this problem.

Ami Zota

That's a great overview and, you know this, I think this topic often gets, the science is really complicated and so it's nice to just get a really, you know, kind of digestible, kind of big picture view of this area of environmental health. So Max, I'm going to bring you in here. Why do we, why do you think, environmental chemicals, you know, why are you drawn to studying this and why do you think it's an important EJ, and public health issue.

Max Aung

Yeah. So you know, Tracey, you gave such a great overview on the magnitude of this problem. And really building off from what you said, it's, I think, you know, from my perspective, one of the things that I've been so dedicated to in terms of research is on trying to better understand the developmental origins of health and disease. Because we know from mechanistic and epidemiologic evidence that, you know, these early life exposures to environmental contaminants can have long lasting effects on infant development, as well as maternal health after pregnancy, and this can lead to heightened healthcare costs. And this will be burdening both individuals but also the broader society. And so from an economic perspective, there is, you know, a big toll on society to, to essentially overcome this problem of early life exposures. And this really layers on top of the environmental justice issues that we're facing today because, you know, a lot of these communities, they're facing multiple layers of systemic racism on top of environmental exposure disparities. They're experiencing other inequities in the education system, and housing, so all of these are combining on top of each other and that really enhances effects. I also just want to point out that, you know, Tracey was mentioning this really large magnitude of chemicals that are in commerce, in the market in the US and also globally. Another thing about that is, you know, we, we really have such a limited view on how these chemicals are acting with each other and so this is, this area of research called chemical mixtures analyses, and a lot of these chemicals can combine, uh, to have, you know antagonistic effects or synergistic effects, and this can have even greater, you know, impacts on some of those health endpoints. So it's, that's like another big layer to this problem that I'm really passionate and interested in is trying to better understand the impact of chemical mixtures.

Ami Zota

Right and we think about chemical mixtures and, you know, the EJ movement and EJ communities have been talking about cumulative impacts including chemical mixtures for decades, right? Because that is their lived experience and I think the science is just, you know, really starting to catch up, although it, you know, it gets pretty complicated very fast. And, you know, you've both talked about you know you're both grounded in the sciences, you've talked about the both the kind of the power of what we already know about how chemicals affect biology, and the magnitude of this problem. But I think one thing that's unique about the two of you is you do care about policy and you don't just stay in your lane of science. And so, you know, I'd like to talk about that. So, why do you care about policy, as, as environmental health scientist, and, and what do you can you kind of talk to us about what you think the role of scientists are in kind of shaping policy, Tracey.

Tracey Woodruff

Sure. So I think of policy as really…. I also have a dog…. Anyway, public policy is, I think it's really the way we think about is, or it is the actions the government takes to make rules that should benefit the entire population. So I think it's really important to understand that a lot, first of all for chemical exposures, it's true, you know, people are of course very concerned because they can, they know they're, they're exposed, they see information about this and they want to control the exposures that they have, right. And you can take some actions to control this to a certain extent, but you can't actually control all of them yourself because they're either—you don't know where they all are, or they're from sources that you have no control over. And a good example is pollution coming out of cars, right? So we, back before in the 1970s there was a good example was lead in gasoline. There was lead in gasoline, even though we knew lead affected the brain and it affected children's brains more profoundly than adult brains. And the thing is, is if you knew that and you were, say you were a parent and you didn't want your kids to be exposed to lead in gasoline. Well, you didn't have any choice about that, because it was used in all the gas and all the cars, and you were exposed to it, whether or not you didn't want to be. So I think that that's the government's role is to really make sure that these kinds of sources that people don't have any control of, that they have, people have information to make choices, and then to control sources, particularly those that they don't have control over, and it's also more equitable, right. If the government sets the bar, or how, you know, banning or reducing pollution exposures, and they set it to address the people who are most susceptible or most vulnerable. So, we've been talking about environmental justice communities as well as pregnant women, then everyone will be protected, and the benefit is that you know it'll improve health. So policy is really the most upstream way to deal with a lot of these pollution exposures, and to hopefully address inequities in the system. And also to remove the burden from the individual on to the people who are making the pollution, so that's the other important component of it.

Ami Zota

And so, Max, I'm gonna bring you into here. I want, you know, I want you to talk about why you think policy's important and also maybe as you do that, tell us a bit about your journey. You know, from kind of where you started with your training to kind of how you've, you know, built that out to you know to include policy and decision making.

Max Aung

Yeah, so, you know, my, my academic training has been, it's been a really interesting combination of various different disciplines. You know, I started in environmental health sciences, but then I moved into more biostatistics, data science, methodologies during my postdoctoral training. And then across all this was this, you know, health policy training through the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. And I think that merger of all those disciplines, it really forced me to think critically about the fact that, you know, as scientists, we're trained in these really complex methods to solve really complex problems in terms of environmental health, in terms of, you know, understanding chemical mixtures. But, you know, we also have a responsibility to take those findings, and try to translate them into something that policymakers can do about it. And so, I think for me that's sort of been this next stage of my career is really, you know, continuing to build on that rigorous methodology and research but thinking of ways to bridge the gap and finding ways to insert the problem of chemical mixtures.

Ami Zota

So do you want to give us an, a more specific example of that. Of how you're breaching chemical mixtures and policy tools and…

Tracey Woodruff

He walked right into that.

Max Aung

Sure. Yeah so, I think, you know, we've been working on a lot of really exciting projects at UCSF. And I recently, I recently joined UCSF in, in December, to work with Tracey and they're, it's been great because you know as we start to think about emerging rules that the EPA is pursuing or starting to develop. As we draft public comments we're inserting key considerations that the EPA should be thinking about in terms of data acquisition, making data publicly available in terms of chemical mixtures, in terms of these environmental justice communities. So there's this, you know, intersection where now, as we think about ways to help guide the federal government and also their interactions with local government, it's thinking about ways to integrate key aspects of this, this, you know, complex data issue that we have with chemical mixtures. Yeah, I don't know, Tracey if you want to, yeah, add a little bit more.

Tracey Woodruff

I mean I think there's the part that science that's like, a lot of stuff we don't know for sure, right. Like, we're doing a project to look at, you know, everyone wants to talk about plastics and plastics in the ocean and all that stuff, but all the different chemicals are in plastic, we don't even know what they all are, and how much we're exposed to them and all that. And that's really important. But it's also important remember that we actually have a lot of data already, that we could use better. And so one of the things that Max has been, is working on and we're looking at is, why can't we use good examples of things that have already been done. Like for example, in California, they've done an amazing job about using all these available data to understand which communities have more impact, whether it's chemical exposures or social factors, social stressors, like, you know, poverty, or their food, food insecurity are these types of factors that all combine to affect health. Like, California has already done a great job of bringing all this together. This is the kind of thing that EPA, I mean it's just like, you know, you got all this stuff on your map on your phone, right, like EPA could easily adopt this type of tools, and they could instantly, well not instantly, but pretty soon start making better decisions than they're making now, for example, in terms of targeting communities. And this is a little bit old, I mean to me what's great about this new administration is that they've committed to the, to doing something on this. They have the justice 40 initiative as well as they have commitment to addressing health inequities in the federal government. So we think there's a lot of things they can just use now.

Ami Zota

Right. So I want to build on that so, because you know we have a lot of early career scientists, budding scientists that listen to our podcast that you know really want to make a social impact with their, you know, with their career, with their life and using science as a tool. And so, you know, like let's take this example, I think you're talking about the EJ screen, is that what you're talking about, the California example? But like how, how is your shop, your program at UCSF like, what is your role in kind of helping to bridge that gap between this existing knowledge and kind of, you know, kind of guiding EPA to adopt certain things or to change, you know, to, to change what they're doing or how they're doing it. Can you kind of, kind of talk about that a little bit.

Tracey Woodruff

Do you want to talk a little bit about that first Max?

Max Aung

Well. There's, okay sure, yeah. There's a couple, I feel like there's a couple of things I want to just make a note about in terms of this, this like practical application. So I think, you know, we are thinking of ways to integrate these publicly available data into emerging research grants, and that will really help set the research standard on like good approaches, best practices to integrate this data with bio-monitoring data to better understand potential mechanisms of childhood maternal health outcomes… So that's like, from one practical standpoint, I think from another standpoint, you know, we are trying to work also with local government here in California to better understand the landscape of environmental chemicals, and their impact on present day problems such as, you know, risk factors for COVID 19 infection and severity. So there's, there's multiple ways that we're trying to approach it from a practice standpoint. And those are just like two examples, but I think that for, especially for emerging researchers and trainees that might be listening in, I think, as they are getting involved with trying to push policy for it, I think these are some of the ways that they can leverage some publicly available data, to, to enhance that.

Tracey Woodruff

Yeah, now let's say the other thing that we've done over the last several years, is create a resource for people who want to be engaged in the pub… to be engaged in the public policy process. So we run a Science Response Network which, I think we're going to change the name, but basically it's a network of academics, and we send out new, it's a way for academics or scientists at any level but for sure, for you know, early stage people to kind of to under, to both understand the landscape of where science is being used in environmental policy because we have a weekly or biweekly newsletter, and then we have webinars to kind of, hot topics and how science is being used in policy. And people can engage at any level because they can just read the newsletter, they can go to a webinar, or they can participate in, the more more tactical things we do you know around writing public comments, or participating in public comments, and we do the public comments that people can sign on, and then they can get more engaged, they can read blogs or. So you can, you can attend at any level that makes sense for you but it's a way to, I think one of the things it's, it's a little hard because we talked about policy and everyone, hopefully everyone on your podcast is registered to vote because that's the most important thing everyone should do. And encourage all their friends to register to vote even though it's hard in some states, and to vote. And so, but I think it's hard because it's kind of amorphous, like what, why everyone like you know, okay maybe nobody saw that, little video thing about "I'm just a bill," but if you're old, you did. But, you know, there's a law but then all the implementation is happening at these regulatory agencies, they're making like all the nitty gritty decisions about, oh, the risk is this much, or that much and they're reading all everybody's science. So that's why we're really focused on that because we can have a lot of and have a lot of influence on making sure that the best science is used, and it's also the, probably the most complicated thing you can engage with because there's a lot, it's like getting a PhD, you know, there's a lot of science you have to use. Using science and public policy has a lot of details to it as well.

Ami Zota

Yeah thanks, thanks for bringing up the Science Response Network and I'll make sure to include a link because I think, I think that's a great community you're building, and it's a way for people to, like you said, engage on many different levels and, and also just increase their knowledge and capacity to engage in policy. I do get those emails, I'm on the list.

Tracey Woodruff

We're always looking for feedback. Also, you know, professional societies do it too. Like the International Society for Environmental Epidemiology North American chapter has a policy committee. We're going to, I think Max is, yeah.

Max Aung

So Tracey and I are both very, very engaged actively with, yeah, so you know that's been a great way for us to connect with other scientists and also trainees because we're, I'm on the you know the new researcher committee as well. Yeah, and so that's like another way and I think we've been pretty active about endorsing letters and comments to, to regulators.

Ami Zota

Yeah, so I made you bring up this this bridge, to, to, you know, the professional societies. And so, Max, I have a question for you. So do you want to talk about some changes that need to be made and how the science is done, to be more beneficial to policymakers, and maybe how you're, you and Tracey and, and others are trying to do that.

Max Aung

Yeah I, you know, I think like one of the frontiers of, of improving science that, you know, our generation and the next generation of emerging scholars are going to have to navigate, is this really expansive measurement of biomarkers, data, all of this complex big data emergence is happening. And also we have this, this opportunity to integrate this data across multiple cohorts in the United States but also globally. And so, I think, as we navigate this, this opportunity going forward, some areas of improvement could be greater, you know, collaborations across these cohorts, greater open access to data sets, and, and, you know, and to science. And I think we're, I think it's currently moving in that direction with things such as the environmental influences on child health outcomes program, and other you know emerging longitudinal and prospective cohort designs as well are trying to integrate research studies so that they can better address the health problems that we're going to be facing.

Tracey Woodruff

Yeah, I just wanted to add too, there's right this part about dealing on the cut, you know, the really forefront of these new data and methods. And then there's also just the part about making, when you put your papers out, making them usable to a policy audience. So that's a very, we do a lot, we've been a leader in developing review methods in environmental health. I know you know that Ami. It's, it's all about methods to consistently review all the scientific information on a topic. So for example, exposure to PFAS during pregnancy and how that affects birth weight would be a good, would be something that we've done. But the big challenge is that, you know, publishing is all about tweaking and doing these novel things, but when really when you're trying to compare across studies, everybody has to report things in a certain way in order to make it usable to the policymakers. And I'll just give a good example is odds ratios, or the relationship between the exposure and the health outcome that are tied to increments of exposure, right, or relative risks that are tied to, so it's as continuous. I know it seems like very minor but the amount of times we've dug into papers and tried to figure out what's unadjusted, what's adjusted, what it's adjusted for, is actually… there are standards of how to publish, to make your paper, you know… that help make your paper consistent, so that other people can use it. Because really you want people to use your science. There's like, it's really important, and it doesn't, it doesn't take too much to make it usable by a broader audience in that way, in a policy context for example.

Ami Zota

That's a great point. Yeah, I think sometimes scientists get so focused on being different. Right, and there's like the focus of like, how is my science new and different that…

Tracey Woodruff

And of course I, there's always pressure, and I'm not saying that's like, you know, doing a study toreplicate another study, and there's been stuff in this in the you know literature like, oh, people don't want to publish replication studies, even though you know there's a demand to do it to show that something is, I mean, maybe we shouldn't have the demand, but at this point in time, if you're going to publish on a topic that includes something that also has been done to do it, put out the information in such a way that it's useful for people that are doing these.

Ami Zota

And do you want to talk, I mean I think your systematic review methodology has been highly impactful and, and we teach it to our graduate students at GW and, and they use it. And do you want to, can you say a little bit more about kind of, how you've been able to get uptake, or to the extent you've been able to get uptake of this in, by regulatory bodies, or, or the government, generally.

Tracey Woodruff

Okay, so I'm just going to preface this by saying, it took years. Just be prepared to go into science, and have years and years of long endeavors. Anyway, so, and also, I'll give some more context, so I used to work at the US Environmental Protection Agency, I worked there for over 10 years so I'm very familiar with how they did evaluations of science to understand hazards and risk. And, and it needed an upgrade, let me just say that… how did they get there, I don't know, it's so confusing, they obscure key facts. Anyway so I just, it's not just me saying this, the National Academy of Sciences wrote a really impactful report about the formaldehyde risk assessment in 2011 and they said, "Oh my god, our assessments are getting worse." That's the program that has the risk hazard risk assessment at the EPA, they're getting worse, and this report is, it's not, these risk assessments are not really that comprehensible. You need to use the systematic review methods, like we had already started on that. So we basically, I'm not saying we invented them because this is the same problem in the clinical field. So, lots of studies, they look like they're all pointing in different directions. How do you know what they really say when you have to make a decision. There was a really important paper that was published in 1990, where they look to see what authoritative people like experts said about a drug or a cardiovascular disease, and then they looked at the actual scientific literature, and it turned out that the quote "experts" were saying that some of these drugs were great, when they were harmful. And they weren't recommending drugs that were helpful, because think about it, when you do read all these papers you can't keep all that stuff in your head, it's impossible right. And like to know of things that I asked them etc. So they developed this approach called systematic reviews. It just is a way to have a consistent and less biased approach to collecting and identify and evaluating the information and arriving at a conclusion about the strength of the quality of the evidence. So we took that method and adapted it to environmental health, because we have observational human studies which are awesome, I just want to say they're really amazing and important. That's kind of a sticking point with the clinical people, and animal studies. And we developed this method and then we, we just basically followed what they did in clinical, we wrote the method, and then they basically tested it out in 10 case studies and I think we got up to seven or something, and then we worked, you know, as the NAS was reviewing EPA's programs we kept saying, "here's this approach, it's going to be better." We got National Toxicology Program to take it up because they realized it was going to be very good, they made their kind of a version for themselves, and through multiple NAS reports. And then finally, when they were redoing the Toxic Substances Control Act, there was congressional language written that said that EPA's approach to weight of evidence is a systematic review and include all the elements that we have in writing are important for, for a quality systematic review including a priority rating protocol, consistent evaluation of the evidence, etc.

Ami Zota

Well, I mean, it is, you know, it's a decade of work, right?

Tracey Woodruff

Right. I guess what I'm trying to, what I think is the important point her is that, if you see something that needs to be changed, it takes time, and partners and collaborators, and learning from other people's experience. Just, that that's where we, and I think Max's point about it's a multidisciplinary collaboration is really important. We don't do anything without many many many partners because, it's better and it's that's the way to make things happen. So, you should meet lots of people when you're young, because they come back and they're still your friend, but they're in more important positions so they're helpful to you. Not that they aren't helpful to you as a friend of course, because they are.

Ami Zota

No, I completely agree, you should definitely form relationships and collaborations with people outside of your area and even outside of your comfort zone, because that's where the more interesting things happen, I think.

Tracey Woodruff

Yeah you get good ideas. That systematic review, I got, I learned about all that stuff when I was a postdoc. And I was at UCSF and Lisa Bero was another colleague there. That's how I found out about it, like that's random right?

Ami Zota

Max anything you want to add here.

Max Aung

Yeah, you know, I mean, I, I think it's really great just to reflect and listen to your reflection Tracey, especially because, you know, we are now working on another really great framework to essentially evaluate systematic evidence to inform decision making, you know in environmental health.

Tracey Woodruff

Oh yeah this was actually the goal all along, this 10 year, now Max is gonna

Max Aung

This will take like 10 more years, but we'll see.

Ami Zota

And just, I know it took 10 years because I was a postdoc with Tracey, when that started. And that was 10 years ago.

Tracey Woodruff

Oh my god, yeah, tell us about, this is a great project that Max is going to make happen.

Ami Zota

Go ahead, sorry, Max.

Max Aung

Yeah, yeah, so you know we're working on this really exciting project. We've assembled an a, an interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary steering committee that spans, sociology, medicine, economics and law, and we're working with this committee to develop, like a really comprehensive framework that will take the most pressing environmental issues that we have, and evaluate them in order to essentially inform decision makers on, on recommendations and policies that can better protect public health. And I think the really exciting part about this framework is the centerpiece, the core foundation to it, is environmental justice and health equity.

Ami Zota

Hmm. So, is this kind of continuing to sort of build on this systematic review idea about kind of once you have, what do you have, what do you have an idea of what the science says, then what to do with it, kind of, how do you translate that kind of into action? Is that kind of…

Max Aung

Yeah, so, so it definitely works, it's supposed to work in that setting. But, I think, as you and so many others that might be listening to this call might also be aware of, there are a lot of situations where there is not enough evidence to, you know, to have this extensive systematic review on data and how the facts necessarily, but we still need to act because we know that that particular chemical or that particular environmental problem will result in adverse effects in the population. Right. And so, so this framework is trying to also deal with setting like that, where we don't have as much data as well.

Ami Zota

Yeah, that's a really great point. Okay, so I think, I think we're on our last question, and it kind of brings us full circle because this is the Agents of Change podcast and, you know, we care a lot about science communication. And we use social media a lot. So I just kind of want to get your thoughts on, on, on kind of, the use of social media by scientists and, and kind of what role you think it has in translating science for policy and decision making, or does it? Who wants to start?

Tracey Woodruff

Well I think communication is essential. Social media is a tool, right, for communicating. And that's a tool people use, we use, okay fine I'm not gonna promote Facebook, but I do like Twitter. So, um, you know, there's always a new tool right like Snapchat and Instagram and blah blah blah, TikTok and all this. But the point being that having a way to communicate your message about your science is essential to, to having audiences understand what you're doing, and make it more digestible and be able to take out the key points, and use it for some type of action, personal action or policy action. I think that we've been very successful with communicating—the thing is, I just want to really say is, like, the science is, there's tons of science there that show that we're overexposed to these chemicals, and they're harming health. Part of our challenge is getting that science out of there and, you know, having it move, you know, not, not that science is the only factor in decision making, I think Max is saying about you know you have to consider, we don't do a good job of considering equity and policy decision making at this point in time. But, but that you, you, the goal is to really get more change because we have these exposures and it's affecting our health and so communication is just a key component of that. And being able to talk about why your science matters. We ran a program called Reach the Decision Makers for many years, which was, not like the Agents, it's just sort of like a kind of a Venn diagram for the Agents of Change which was really training people on how to talk to policymakers, and I think to me what was most striking about, because I worked with each of the groups and they went to go meet with EPA, and the most striking was that people, scientists and people in general just, they need to feel that they're empowered to ask for the, they are, the government works for them. And so, I think that's the most important thing is for scientists to realize that it's okay to say this is what your science says and that, to ask for something to be done about it.

Ami Zota

Great points. Max?

Max Aung

Yeah, I, you know, I feel like I've been experimenting a lot with social media and science communication these past few years. And it, it's, I mean, it's a great tool. I think Twitter has been a catalyst for getting my personal research out to a broader audience within my, not only within my field, but also folks that are like totally outside of my discipline. And it's led to folks reaching out to me to have more conversations, brainstorming different ideas. So it, it can definitely spark a lot of really exciting things, I think I'm still trying to navigate, like how to better communicate things to policymakers and I think that's going to be, you know, an ongoing area of, you know, learning and growth for me personally. But I also think, you know, from a communication perspective, there's this, there's this side of training that, that Tracey brought up, and I think it's, what I've been, in my journey lately, more recently too, was trying to think about ways to communicate to scholars really, really earlier in their career. And so this, like for example, I was teaching in this summer diversity pipeline program at Stanford, and I mean these students are in community college so they're very early in their career, and they're from underrepresented backgrounds, and this was one of their first exposures to environmental health, right. And if this leads to like five to ten new scientists in the area, that's an incredible ripple effect right. So I think as scientists we also have to think about the communication along the spectrum of not just policy makers and other scientists but the emerging scholars that we can help bring into the fold because we really need to sort of, strengthen, like our numbers, right.

Ami Zota

I think that's a great point, right. We just need to do a better job of communicating to people outside of the academy, and, you know, including, you know, our family members policymakers, you know, concerned citizens, you know, younger people on the pipeline. I mean if you're doing a good job with it, then you have the potential to reach all of these audiences. But uh yeah, I just saw that there's some interesting science too where people are trying to actually evaluate the impact of different communication strategies, like with decision makers. And, I mean, I think that kind of stuff too, I'm sure it's out there, but I feel like in, when you're trained as a scientist, you don't really get exposed to that kind of, you know, communication science, right. I think we're about at time and so this has been such a fun conversation, and, you know, just want to thank you both for, for being on our pod, and for all the work that you're doing to both do good science and then to, you know, not stop there, but to push it into actual change. So, and public health and equity. And so, so thank you for, for that work.

Max Aung

Yeah, thank you so much for the invitation.

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