195746 Community ecology and capacity: Keys to progressing the environmental communication of wicked problems

Monday, November 9, 2009: 4:30 PM

Rosemary M. Caron, PhD, MPH , Health Management and Policy, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH
Nancy Serrell, MALS , Office of the Provost, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH
Wicked problems are multi-factorial and dynamic in nature, and possess no clear resolution due to numerous community stakeholder involvement and their varied perspectives. We demonstrate childhood lead poisoning as a wicked problem and illustrate how the understanding of a community's ecology (i.e., social, cultural, economic, and political composition) can contribute to building capacity to affect local environmental management. We utilized focus groups with the Latino community and structured interviews with major stakeholders to describe an urban community's ecology and demonstrate that childhood lead poisoning is socially complex; involves multiple stakeholder responsibility; requires individual and organizational behavior change; and is characterized by policy failure. Equipped with this knowledge, we demonstrate how the community built and sustained capacity to address this environmental problem by forming an academic-community partnership. This academic-community partnership employed the cultural-experiential model of risk to develop a quality improvement toolkit to improve lead screening. Our experience has led to more healthcare professionals being aware of the community's universal screening guidelines and a community that is more educated about this wicked problem. The effort put forth to understand a community's ecology and build their capacity allowed for the development of a place-specific strategy in response to an identified community priority. It also helped to explain community resistance to health promotion endeavors. We propose that practitioners need to consider a community's ecology and social context of risk as they pertain to wicked problems. These factors will determine how a diverse community interprets and responds to environmental communication and capacity building efforts.

Learning Objectives:
Learning Objectives At the conclusion of this session, participants will be able to: • Define a wicked problem. • Describe the components of a community’s ecology. • Explain how one community built and sustained capacity to address an environmental health problem. • Describe the importance of how considering a community’s ecology and building a community’s capacity can affect environmental communication efforts.

Keywords: Community-Based Public Health, Community Participation

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I direct the MPH Program at the University of New Hampshire and conducted this CBPR research in the most urban community in the state of NH.
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.