Background: Environmental health scientists may find it challenging to fit the structure of the questions addressed in their discipline into the prevailing paradigm for translational research.
Objective: We aim to frame the translational science paradigm to address the stages of scientific discovery, knowledge acquisition, policy development, and evaluation in a manner relevant to the environmental health sciences. Our intention is to characterize differences between environmental health sciences and clinical medicine, and to orient this effort towards public health goals.
Discussion: Translational research is usually understood to have evolved from the bench-to-bedside framework by which basic science transitions to clinical treatment. Although many health-related fields have incorporated the terminology and context of translational science, environmental health research has not always found a clear fit into this paradigm. We describe a translational research framework applicable to environmental health sciences that retains the basic structure that underlies the original bench-to-bedside paradigm. We propose that scientific discovery (T1) in environmental health research frequently occurs through epidemiological or clinical observations. This discovery often involves understanding the potential for human health effects of exposure to a given environmental chemical or chemicals. The practical applications of this discovery evolve through an understanding of exposure–response relationships (T2) and identification of potential interventions to reduce exposure and improve health (T3). These stages of translation require an interdisciplinary partnership between exposure sciences, exposure biology, toxicology, epidemiology, biostatistics, risk assessment, and clinical sciences. Implementation science then plays a crucial role in the development of environmental and public health practice and policy interventions (T4). Outcome evaluation (T5) often takes the form of accountability research, as environmental health scientists work to quantify the costs and benefits of these interventions.
Conclusion: We propose an easily visualized framework for translation of environmental health science knowledge–from discovery to public health practice–that reflects the crucial interactions between multiple disciplines in our field.
This document was originally published in Environmental Health Perspectives by National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Copyright restrictions may apply. doi: 10.1289/EHP4067
Kaufman, Joel D. and Curl, Cynthia L.. (2019). "Environmental Health Sciences in a Translational Research Framework: More Than Benches and Bedsides". Environmental Health Perspectives, 127(4), 1-7. http://dx.doi.org/10.1289/EHP4067