193861 Environmental permitting decisions perceived to impact human health: Improving environmental health communication between state agencies and communities

Wednesday, November 11, 2009: 12:45 PM

Michael Rezaee, MPH , The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, Dartmouth College, Lebanon, NH
Rosemary M. Caron, PhD, MPH , Health Management and Policy, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH
Communities facing potential environmental exposures often feel that government-based environmental health agencies are not adequately addressing their concerns regarding risk, thus resulting in misunderstanding and distrust. Health communication has become critical to address the public's growing awareness and concern of environmental health risks. Although opportunities for public participation in environmental health assessments have greatly increased in the last decade, the quality of environmental health information exchange regarding perceived or actual health risks between states and the concerned community has not been evaluated. This study has three specific aims: 1.) identify environmental health concerns of affected communities; 2.) evaluate communication between a governmental state agency and the impacted community regarding environmental permitting decisions that can influence human health; and 3.) identify communication barriers. This project utilized a comprehensive analysis of publicly available documents which serve as a record of communication between the state and public pertaining to specific contentious and non-contentious environmental permitting sites. Structured interviews with state employees and facility managers were conducted to examine the experiences that shaped their perception of current risk communication methods. Results indicate that determining communication barriers, clarifying misconceptions and cooperation between community members and state agencies during environmental health assessments maximizes the knowledge, comprehension and acceptance of findings and can lead to better community relationships. We propose that the development of a community health liaison position would 1.) improve environmental communication methods, 2.) promote productive working relationships, and 3.) increase acceptance of environmental communication between state agencies and communities during the environmental permitting process.

Learning Objectives:
Learning Objectives At the conclusion of this session, participants will be able to: Identify sources of environmental health information in communities. Describe two environmental health concerns of communities impacted by the environmental permitting decision-making process. List risk communication barriers for community members. Describe two ways in which to improve environmental health communication in communities.

Keywords: Health Communications, Environmental Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am the Director of the University of New Hampshire's MPH Program and I conducted this research.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.