Faculty and Students from the Center for Environmental and Workplace Health Receive Grant to Improve Firefighter Health
- Monday, September 20th, 2021
Western Kentucky University faculty from the Center for Environmental and Workplace Health (CEWH) in the College of Health and Human Services, Dr. Edrisa Sanyang (PI), Dr. Ritchie Taylor, and Dr. Gretchen Macy, were recently awarded a grant through the Center for Integrative Environmental Health Sciences at the University of Louisville. The funding supports the study of COVID-19 related exposures among career and volunteer firefighters and assessment of the fire departments’ preparedness to address identified exposures. In collaboration with the Green River Firefighters Association (GRFA), a collection of over 80 municipal fire departments covering 9 counties in Northwest Kentucky, the team is conducting community-based participatory research (CBPR). The partnership creates opportunities to apply research findings to make recommendations and develop trainings for future dissemination, all with the goal of improving firefighter health. When asked about the partnership, Secretary Marc Henderson (GRFA) said, "The Leadership of the Green River Firefighters Association has been honored to be part of this research since the beginning and appreciate the work of WKU on this very important project. This partnership with the Fire Service in KY and WKU is working towards saving firefighters' lives, and we are grateful for their efforts with these studies."
Ashley Adams, a graduate student in Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences (EOHS) from Owensboro, Kentucky, is also a vital part of the research team. Ashley has been a volunteer firefighter for over 3 years and has been instrumental in expanding the reach of the project. Her insights into the roles of volunteer firefighters are invaluable and her rapport with the firefighter community has allowed the study to expand to additional fire departments. Ashley recently conducted research at her home fire department of Airport-Sorgho and plans to collect data at 50 departments throughout the study. Chief Pat Thompson from the Airport-Sorgho Fire Department said, “The survey was presented to our staff in a very friendly and informative manner. I took both parts of the survey as a member and as a leader in my department. It really opened my eyes as to whether we are adequately training and preparing our responders to properly protect themselves from the possible exposures they may encounter." Through the collaborative efforts of WKU and GRFA, this research is finding ways to help improve the lives of firefighters.