At the Beginning: Toxicology Information Outreach Project (TIOP)
During the late 1980's and early 1990's, there were a number of publications that discussed the detrimental impact on the health of minority communities caused by exposure to environmental chemicals. Included among these publications were:
- Toxic Wastes and Race in the United States, Commission for Racial Justice, United Church of Christ, 1987
- Black America: Awakening to Ecology, the Washington Post, December 24, 1989
- Dumping in Dixie: Race, Class and Environmental Quality, Robert Bullard, 1990
- Environmental Racism, Crisis, April, 1991,
- Showdown at Sunrise, Essence Magazine, July, 1991
These publications collectively discussed the fact that minority communities were disproportionately exposed to toxic emissions and hazardous materials, and the health of the citizens within these communities was being adversely impacted. The exposure-related health problems presented ranged from teary eyes, nosebleeds, asthma, and keloids to high incidences of cancer.
Recognizing the concern about environmental hazards in minority communities, the National Library of Medicine (NLM), in late 1991, established a special outreach project targeting this population. The intent of this initiative was to strengthen the capacity of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to train medical and other health professionals in the use of toxicological, environmental, occupational safety and health and hazardous wastes information resources available through NLM. This audience represented a group that otherwise might not be exposed to these valuable resources.
NLM initiated its pilot minority outreach project with the following institutions:
- Drew University of Medicine and Science, Los Angeles, CA
- Florida A&M University, Tallahassee, FL
- Howard University, Washington, DC
- Meharry Medical College, Nashville, TN
- Morehouse School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA
- Texas Southern University, Houston, TX
- Tuskegee University, Tuskegee, AL
- University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, Pine Bluff, AR
- Xavier University of Louisiana, New Orleans, LA
These schools were selected because of their strong programs in the health sciences, ties to socioeconomically-deprived minority communities, and the fact that they have educated, and continue to educate, most of the Nation's African American health professionals that practice or work in minority communities.
The established goals for the project, initially called the Toxicology information Outreach Project (TIOP), were to increase the awareness of NLM resources at HBCUs and their surrounding communities; provide instruction in the use of these resources; enhance the use and the distribution of health-related information to HBCU faculty, staff and students and to community leaders; and to evaluate the effectiveness of the model project in impacting the health of the targeted audiences. In order to accomplish the latter objective, a panel with representation from each participating institution was established to oversee and guide the project.
To facilitate access and use of the NLM databases, each institution was provided a state-of-the-art workstation (hardware, software, and computer-assisted tutorials); training in accessing and searching NLM resources; and free access to the NLM computer system. These tools were provided at no cost to the institutions since they were found to be the biggest impediments to the utilization of modern information technology at these schools
Due to the overall success of the initial pilot project, NLM extended this initiative to provide free database training and access to other HBCUs and minority institutions. To date, over eighty of these schools have participated in this program.
Hampton University was added as a member on the Toxicology Information Outreach Panel (TIOP) in 1997. Prior to that time, Hampton had been actively involved in community outreach projects through its Environmental Justice Information Center (EJUC). The School of Nursing continues to maintain a unique collaborative relationship with the EJTC. Hampton University is a private institution of higher education that is more than 135 years old. Hampton began training health care professionals in 1891 when civics teacher, Alice Bacon, started the Hampton Training School of Nurses. Today, Hampton’s School of Pharmacy has developed the most contemporary pharmacy program at a HBCU.
In addition, Oglala Lakota College and the University of Puerto Rico, Medical Sciences Campus were added in 2001 to the project oversight panel. TIOP recommended that a representative from a tribal college and a Hispanic serving institution also be added to the panel.
Oglala Lakota College was one of the first tribally controlled colleges in the United States. It is located on the Pine Ridge Indian reservation in South Dakota. The OLC nursing program supplies nursing health care providers to the rural and Pine Ridge/Rosebud Indian reservation areas of the northern plains A representative from OLC Nursing School was added to TIOP.
The University of Puerto Rico Medical Sciences Campus is a Hispanic serving medical school in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Its mission is to transmit, enrich and increase knowledge in the medical sciences through technology, research and clinical services. A representative from the university was added to the panel from the department of Pharmacology and Toxicology.
Since its modest beginning in 1991 as a one-year NLM-sponsored pilot initiative to improve minority access to toxicology databases, the scope of the Toxicology Information Outreach Program (TIOP) has expanded. So too has the relationship between NLM and participating Historically Black Colleges and Universities broadened. By the year 2000 the TIOP program had trained health professionals at nearly 80 minority institutions in how to use the toxicology and environmental health information resources at NLM, and new ways to approach a broader health disparities agenda were being explored.
Though considered extremely successful by NLM, TIOP members and beneficiaries, by 2002 the program had reached a point in its growth where new definition for future growth was being called for. In an assessment of the program in 2001 all panel members were of the opinion that they could “better respond to NLM’s desire for increased awareness and increased use of NLM resources -- while at the same time better serving their own institutional missions -- if the TIOP program were strengthened and broadened in scope.” New areas of interest that were explored in the 2001 assessment included:
- Expanding the objectives of the panel to include health disparities,
- Expanding the number of participating institutions to include greater representation from Hispanic Serving Institutions and Tribal Colleges and Universities, and
- Improving and making more regular the contact between the Panel and NLM
With this input from TIOP members in mind, and in consultation with the TIOP Chairman, NLM has developed an outline for a strategy that will reenergize the program, increase its visibility and improve its ability to provide valuable health information to minority health professionals and communities.
Expanded Outreach Panel/EnHIOP
On January 14, 2004, the first meeting of the EnHIOP convened at the National Library of Medicine. The new chairman of the panel is Dr. Henry Lewis III, Dean of School of Pharmacy, Florida A&M University. A very important component of this project, now called the Environmental Health Information Outreach Program (EnHIOP), is participation on a panel representing selected HBCUs, tribal colleges and Minority serving Educational Institutions. EnHIOP currently has twenty institutions on the panel with over 15 states represented as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
There is now a blend of long-time and new members on the panel, with differences in information technology, focus and experience. Institutions represented on EnHIOP will have a voice in the direction NLM follows in pursuit of the goal of reducing health disparities. One of the benefits of the NLM Online database training is to provide opportunities to empower students, faculty and members of the surrounding communities to marshal NLM resources that can help to reduce environmental health disparities.
New Schools Added to EnHIOP
- Benedict College
- California State University, Northridge
- Dine College
- Haskell Indian Nations University
- Jackson State University
- Medgar Evers College
- Morgan State University
- Southern University at Baton Rouge
- University of Texas at El Paso
Institutionalize NLM resources awareness, training and use through curriculum incorporation, seminars and special events at each institution. Ensure high-level administrative/academic involvement and cooperation.
- Strengthen institutional partnerships with libraries, other departments and components such as Environmental Justice and Poison Control Centers and Centers for Excellence.
- Develop/strengthen relations with Community-Based and Faith-Based Organizations to extend health-related outreach to communities surrounding the institutions.
- Become more involved in professional meetings through presentation of papers, posters and panel discussions. Seek opportunities for publications in major journals.
- Serve as a NLM local/regional resource for training, exhibiting and community outreach. Promote awareness and use of NLM resources.
- Sponsor seminars/conferences to expose Panel members and other institutional representatives to state-of-the-art science and information technology relevant to health issues of concern to this audience.
- Establish reporting requirements so that Annual Reports are focused on training/outreach activities rather than broad institutional public relations. Copies of Annual Reports are to be submitted to the Office of the President at each institution.
- Provide modest financial support to panel members for training and other outreach activities.
- Provide training manuals and other materials to institutions (through ORISE).
- Train a cadre of trainers at institutions through train-the-trainers classes.
- Establish a listserv/website for communications and resource awareness and sharing.