251432 Communicating risk from soil sediment contamination post-Hurricane Ike during storm recovery efforts in coastal Texas and Louisiana

Wednesday, November 2, 2011: 11:30 AM

John Sullivan, MA , NIEHS Center in Environmental Toxicology / Public Forum & Toxics Assistance Division, University of Texas Medical Branch @ Galveston TX, Galveston, TX
Alexandra Nolen, MPH, PhD , Director: Center to Eliminate Health Disparities; Associate Director: UTMB PAHO / WHO Training Center, University of Texas Medical Branch @ Galveston TX, Galveston, TX
Sharon Croisant, MS, PhD , Associate Professor: Department of Pediatrics (CEIID); Director: NIEHS COEC, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, TX
Wilma Subra , Technical Advisor, Louisiana Environmental Action Networks, Baton Rouge, LA
Michael Jackson, MA , Emergency Assistance, St. Vincent's House, Galveston, TX
Jonathan B. Ward, PhD , Preventive Medicine and Community Health, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, TX
Community members, local / regional governments and local public health districts need clear, unambiguous information on risk associated with disaster events to foster crisis management and recovery decisions that promote both safety in the short term and reconstruction planning informed by scientifically sound conceptions of environmental risk factors. This need is especially acute during the reentry/ recovery period immediately following an industrial accident or a climate disaster and uncertainty, due to lack of data, divergent interpretations of risk, or inadequate dissemination of risk messages often leads to an increase in public distrust and frustration. This presentation focuses on: 1) general factors affecting risk perception and acceptance of risk messages, 2) the common elements of clear, transparent and unbiased risk messaging, 3) contrasts in risk messaging scenarios based on relative urgency and uncertainty of evolving crisis situations (i.e. chemical spill or industrial accident vs. safe reentry to residential areas after an extreme storm), 4) and finally, a detailed explanation of methods used to communicate results from locally-initiated surge sediment testing immediately after Hurricane Ike for quick dissemination to City of Galveston officials, public health / redevelopment planners and hands-on recovery workers, and how the information has since been framed as a coastal community resiliency message for sustained use in ongoing preparations for future storms. Discussion concludes with proposed guidelines for coordination of risk information among local / regional crisis managers, public health officials, local governments and researchers, an analysis of the grassroots community network mobilized to disseminate personal protective equipment and risk messages, post-Ike, and conclusions regarding methods for nurturing and sustaining such networks between crises.

Learning Areas:
Assessment of individual and community needs for health education
Communication and informatics
Protection of the public in relation to communicable diseases including prevention or control
Public health biology
Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
1. List major factors contributing to public perceptions of risk. 2. Describe how public, private, non-profit and grassroots community groups may best collaborate in processing, organizing and disseminating information on environmental risks, post disaster event. 3. Discuss the effects of uncertainty on public acceptance of risk messages.

Keywords: Community Health, Risk Communication

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am qualified to present because I direct the Public Forum & Toxics Assistance Division of UTMB's NIEHS Center Community Outreach & Engagement Core.
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.