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This ScienceServ explores the emerging science investigating the impact environmental pollutants may have on fertility and reproductive health. We aim to provide an international space for health professionals, scientists, researchers, community groups, government agents, and the health-affected to connect, share, and discuss evidence-based research linking environmental drivers of infertility, related reproductive health disorders, and pregnancy complications. We do this by distributing influential research articles and hosting partnership calls featuring new research and innovative efforts to understand, support, and mitigate a wide range of reproductive health issues.
The Reproductive Health ScienceServ is coordinated by Karin Russ, MS, RN. Karin is the director of undergraduate Community/Public Health Nursing courses at the University of Maryland School of Nursing, Shady Grove campus, as well as the current chair of the Environmental Health Committee for the Maryland Nurses Association.
CHE does not take a stance on specific legislation nor sign petitions and the like. Rather, we investigate and discuss the scientific foundation for more health-protective policies in a civil tone. For posting guidelines and etiquette, please see our CHEtiquette.
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CHE's Work on Reproductive Health and Fertility
CHE Fertility's collaborative work essentially defined the field of reproductive environmental health. Without CHE and the expertise of the pioneering researchers, health professionals and advocates that it attracted, the emergence of what is now a highly robust field would likely have taken years if not possibly decades more to develop. In short, CHE Fertility was at the center of launching an effective, multidiscipline endeavor that bridged science with medicine, health advocacy and policy that ultimately put reproductive environmental health on the map of priorities for scientists, health professionals and concerned citizens alike.
The mix of leading stakeholders that CHE convened developed what is now standard fare at CHE: science-focused teleconferences; an interactive ScienceServ; a carefully culled and tailored scientific abstracts database; regular newsletters; and expert resources for media. They also created an informally managed "speakers bureau" for stakeholder meetings and programs, Congressional testimony, etc. The pioneering actions that made CHE Fertility so successful included:
- Organizing a range of stakeholders around credible science, in particular establishing partnerships between federal agency leaders, advocates, scientists and doctors
- Bringing heft and validity to the concerns raised by the science, signaling its importance to decision-makers in medicine, policy and funding
- Propagating the logic and far greater efficiency of investing in upstream disease prevention as an important complement to the 96% of dollars invested in disease in the US going toward treatment
- Galvanizing a large choir of sophisticated messengers and catalysts who inform policy debates, influence research agendas and funding priorities as well as clinical care
- Engaging a set of leading professional associations until they paid attention. Those societies upped the ante, becoming critical voices in health care sector and on Capitol Hill, with the steady assistance from CHE Fertility partners
- Providing an important platform for nurses, who became some of the most proactive and effective voices for improved understanding and practice
- Pressing for research agendas (and funding) to fill critical knowledge gaps
Also see the list of CHE's publications related to reproductive health and fertility to the right.
Vallombrosa Consensus Statement on Environmental Contaminants and Human Fertility Compromise, 2005. CHE's Fertility/Early Pregnancy Compromise Work Group partnered with Linda C. Giudice, MD, PhD, to convene a small multidisciplinary group of experts at the Vallombrosa Retreat Center in Menlo Park, California. The group's goal was to assess what the science tells us about the contribution of environmental contaminants—specifically synthetic compounds and heavy metals—to human infertility and associated health conditions.
Summit on Environmental Challenges to Reproductive Health and Fertility
In 2007, CHE joined the University of California, San Francisco, in sponsoring an environmental reproductive health summit. This conference was designed for clinical researchers and clinicians/health professionals, scientists; allied and public health professionals; policy makers, government; leaders from patient advocacy, women's health, community and worker health, environment, reproductive advocacy, and environmental justice; and environment/health funders. Participants exchanged the latest research around environmental contaminants and reproductive health, discussed how the science impacts public health, education, policy, and the health care system and explored mutual areas of collaboration among the diverse constituencies participating in the summit. Proceedings were published in 2008.1
Women's Reproductive Health and the Environment Workshop
Meeting in January 2008, the Women’s Reproductive Health and the Environment Workshop fostered a collaboration of eminent and up-and-coming scientists specializing in women’s reproductive health. Organized by the CHE in partnership with the University of Florida and the University of California, San Francisco's Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment (PRHE), his invitational workshop had three goals:
- Assess the key science linking environmental contaminant exposures to reproductive health outcomes currently being reported at ever greater rates in women and girls. In particular, assess xenobiotics and phytoestrogens and the deleterious effects of these compounds on normal ovarian, uterine, breast, and hypothalamic/pituitary function.
- Identify research directions that will fill current gaps in the scientific understanding in this field.
- Translate this information for a lay audience of journalists, policymakers, NGOs, community groups and others who can develop a strategy for prevention and intervention.
Proceedings were published in 2008.2 The conference also led to the publication of a report for a non-scientific audience: Girl, Disrupted: Hormone Disruptors and Women's Reproductive Health and a summary brochure in two versions: a trifold brochure for a general audience: Hormone Disruptors and Women's Health: Reasons for Concern and an annotated version for researchers.
Workshop on Navigating the Scientific Evidence to Improve Prevention
In August 2009, The University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment (PRHE), CHE, the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals (ARHP), the Magee-Womens Hospital of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, the UCSF Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit (PEHSU) and WorkSafe hosted this workshop. The goal was to translate the emerging science in environmental reproductive health into timely action in clinical and policy arenas. The workshop achieved consensus on the outline of the Navigation Guide,3 which was published in 2011.
Women's Environmental Reproductive Health Consortium
CHE's Reproductive Health ScienceServ has taken a leading role in the Women's Environmental Reproductive Health Consortium, which convenes researchers from the National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences Intramural Research Division and grantees at academic institutions across the United States receiving funds through the NIEHS Division of Extramural Research & Training. The consortium seeks to build better interactions and collaborations among scientists in order to form mutually beneficial partnerships, share best practices, databases, and tissue banks, and explore translational strategies that magnify the impact of scientific findings. For more information, please contact Karin Russ.