229261 Reducing health disparities related to environmental exposures: The Great Lakes Environmental Health Project

Monday, November 8, 2010 : 1:10 PM - 1:30 PM

Laura Anderko, RN, PhD , School of Nursing and Health Studies, Georgetown University, Washington, DC
Elizabeth Fayram, RN, PhD , Nursing, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milwaukee, WI
Shawne Johnson, RN, BSN , School of Health Sciences, University of Alaska Anchorage, West Allis
Betty Koepsel, RN, MS , Nursing, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milwaukee, WI
Earnestine Willis, MD, MPH , Kellner Professor in Pediatrics and Director of the Center for the Advancement of Underserved Children, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI
Jennifer Vaclav, RD , West Allis Health Department, West Allis, WI
Background: Children are more vulnerable than adults to health problems as a result of environmental exposures. This is because they are still growing, they eat more, drink more, and breathe more in proportion to their body size, and their behavior can expose them more to chemicals and organisms (e.g., crawling on the floor). The goal of the Great Lakes Environmental Health Project (GLEHP) was to empower families served by a Women, Infant, and Children (WIC) Program in a large, urban, Midwestern neighborhood to reduce their children's exposure to a variety of environmental health risks through education and risk reduction skill-building sessions. This project built on the strengths of three partners including the local health department, state university, and private medical college to produce a sustainable change in public health systems that would deliver an innovative approach to reduce environmental risks in low-income children. GLEHP developed mechanisms to increase the number of WIC families and health professionals, who were able to identify and take action to reduce children's exposure to environmental health risks. Methods: Community-based participatory research methods were used to design the educational/skills building program and solicited community input including health professionals (nutritionists, public health nurses) and WIC clients including pregnant and nursing women, and fathers. Several classes were offered on topics including water quality, air quality, and toxins. Measurements included pre- and post-test evaluation of knowledge gained. Quarterly partnership meetings were held to plan, monitor and evaluate processes, activities, and outcomes. Results: Thirty-three public health professionals and nursing students participated in the educational workshop on interventions to reduce environmental risks. Thirty WIC clients attended at least one educational session. Pre-post test scores measuring knowledge increased: Water Quality (p= 0.072); Air Quality (p= 0.025), and Toxins (p= 0.000). Public health professionals have successfully incorporated environmental health information into their practice, including home visits, and Prenatal Care Coordination. Conclusions: GLEHP promoted environmental justice through sustainable social and community changes to reduce environmental health risks to low-income families, and ensure that current and future generations are protected from unnecessary and unwarranted health risks.

Learning Areas:
Advocacy for health and health education
Environmental health sciences
Public health or related education
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
1. Identify at least one environmental exposure that can harm children. 2. Describe community-based participatory research methods used to develop, implement, and evaluate the Great Lakes Environmental Health Program. 3. Discuss the impact of the Great Lakes Environmental Health Program on community knowledge and public health practice.

Keywords: Environmental Justice, Health Disparities

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a nursing facutly and researcher. Also, I designed and implemented this study, working in collaboration with other university colleagues and public health professionals.
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.