Community Engagement, ‘Forever Chemicals’, and Health Education: A Public Health Perspective on PFAS in Drinking Water Private Wells in East Selah

What does it mean to “engage communities”? What is the difference between community engagement, outreach, and education? How does community engagement relate to health equity, health outcomes, and Washington State’s public health response to emerging environmental health threats?

In this talk, I will share how the Washington State Department of Health has focused on these questions to drive our response to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination in private drinking wells in the East Selah community. Often called “Forever Chemicals” in the news, PFAS chemicals are an emerging environmental contaminant and public health concern. This is because many types of PFAS are toxic to people and animals, how easily they spread in the environment, and how difficult they are to break down.  This talk will include digital audience participation activities, so please come prepared with a laptop or Smart Device if you are able!

About the Speaker

Headshot of the speaker in a mountain environment.
Claire Nitsche
Health Educator, Washington State Department of Health

Claire Nitsche (she/her) is a health educator with the Washington State Department of Health. She uses health psychology, behavior change theory, health literacy, anthropology, and social marketing to drive community education and engagement on PFAS drinking water issues across the state. She is responsible for “translating” science from DOH’s toxicology team into actionable, understandable, and accessible education materials and engagement initiatives. Claire’s background includes experience in Global Health, Anthropology, and Human Dimensions of Natural Resources, as well developing and teaching environmental health education courses in the U.S. and Nepal. Claire received her BA in Anthropology from Western Washington University and her MPH in Global Health and Health Disparities from the Colorado School of Public Health.

Environmental Speaker Series

The Environmental Speaker Series is hosted by the College of the Environment at Western Washington University.

The Series is free and open to the public. Talks are held each Thursday at 4:30 pm in Academic Instructional Center West room 204 - AW-204. Talks will also be streamed via zoom. Register with the Alumni Association for the zoom link. Paid parking is available in lot C.

Learn more about the Environmental Speaker Series
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