212409 Use of the Community-Owned and Managed Research Approach to Build Community-Based Surveillance Infrastructure

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Christopher D. Heaney, PhD , Epidemiology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC
Introduction. Many low-income communities of color in NC lack safe water and sanitation services as a result of exclusionary planning practices. Community-owned and managed research methods can be used to collect data to assess compliance with existing environmental and public health statutes.

Methods. Community monitor (CM) training sessions, household water and sewer service surveys, and drinking water and surface water tests of fecal pollution were completed at private (target) and regulated public (referent) service households in three low-income African-American communities in Mebane, NC.

Results. CMs collected survey data showing a mixture of failing private wells and septic systems and regulated public drinking water and sewer lines. Septic system failure ranged from 11-18%. Higher turbidity levels were observed in private wells compared to regulated public drinking water (p<0.0001). There was little evidence of differences in surface water fecal pollution at target and referent sites. Drinking water and surface water fecal pollution levels exceeded limits protecting health at target and referent households.

Conclusions. COMR methods built community capacity to document private and regulated public drinking water and sewer service failures. Drinking and surface water fecal contamination suggests a need for provision of improved water and sewer services to protect health in these underserved and marginalized EJ communities. This training approach may be useful for other community-based environmental justice organizations working to address the lack of basic amenities or other built environment issues.

Learning Objectives:
1. Explain how community-owned and -managed research (COMR) can be used to assess the safety and adequacy of water and sewer services in low-income communities of color impacted by environmental injustice (EJ). 2. Formulate an understanding of data collection that can be performed to encourage compliance and enforcement with environmental and public health statutes. 3. Evaluate the use of community-facilitated strategies for ground-truthing in support of local environmental justice struggles.

Keywords: Environmental Justice, Community Capacity

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have a PhD in Epidemiology and have been doing community-based research for 9 years.
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.