258556 Holistic Community Based Risk Assessment of Exposure to Contaminants via Water Sources

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Myra Lefthand, BA, MSW, CSAC; Crow Tribal member , Department of Community Health Education, Crow/Northern Cheyenne Indian Health Service Hospital, Crow Agency, MT
Margaret Eggers, MS, MA , Science Department, Little Big Horn College, Crow Agency, MT
Sara Young, BA, MEd, Crow Tribal member , Montana INBRE Program, Montana State University Bozeman, Bozeman, MT
Ada Bends, Crow Tribal member , Health Department, Apsaalooke (Crow) Tribe, Crow Agency, MT
John Doyle, Crow Tribal member , Apsaalooke Water and Wastewater Authority, Crow Agency, MT
Larry Kindness, Crow Tribal member , Apsaalooke Water & Wastewater Authority, Crow Agency, MT
Tamra Old Coyote, BS, Crow Tribal member , Crow Water Quality Project, Little Big Horn College, Crow Agency, MT
Urban Bear Don't Walk, BA, JD, Crow Tribal member , Apsaalooke (Crow) Tribe, Crow Agency, MT
Brandon Good Luck, AA, Crow Tribal member , Environmental Protection Department, Apsaalooke (Crow) Tribe, Crow Agency, MT
Myron Shield, BS, Crow Tribal member , Environmental Protection Office, Apsaalooke (Crow) Tribe, Crow Agency, MT
Ronald Stewart, Crow Tribal member , 107 Committee of Crow Tribal Elders, Apsaalooke (Crow) Tribe, Crow Agency, MT
Tim Ford, BS, PhD , Dean of Graduate Studies, University of New England, Biddeford, ME
Anne Camper, BS, MS, PhD , Center for Biofilm Engineering, Montana State University Bozeman, Bozeman, MT
Introduction: Tribal members concerned about health risks to residents of all ages from water contamination initiated this project. Our community-based risk assessment examines exposures to contaminants via domestic, cultural and recreational water uses on the Crow Reservation. Our hypotheses are that: reliance on shallow wells, subsistence fishing, traditional uses of river water and other practices place residents at an increased risk of exposure to environmental contaminants via water sources; and following Community Based Participatory Research principles in conducting risk assessment, communication and mitigation is an effective way to reduce health disparities in underserved communities. Methods: Our partnership includes the local Tribal College, the Crow Tribe, the Indian Health Service Hospital, the Apsaalooke Water and Wastewater Authority, the Tribal Elders Committee, Montana State University Bozeman and the University of New England. The partners guide the work through monthly Steering Committee meetings. We are conducting: (1) bacterial and chemical analyses of multiple water sources, (2) mercury analyses of local fish, (3) family surveys to assess routes of exposure and (4) interviews with key informants. Additionally, we're utilizing unpublished data, multivariate analysis and GIS. Tribal College science majors are our research interns, building community capacity. Results/Conclusion: The community has used the data to obtain funding to upgrade the water and wastewater treatment systems. Mitigation strategies are being piloted. The resulting holistic risk assessment is innovative in utilizing mixed methods and incorporating both physiological and non-physiological health risks grounded in the cultural significance of water and local economics. Community and university partners will co-present.

Learning Areas:
Diversity and culture
Environmental health sciences
Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
Explain some of the benefits and challenges of conducting community-based risk assessment in a Reservation community, from the perspectives of both community and university partners; List factors that contribute to water quality becoming an environmental justice issue in Reservation communities; Describe how the across-the-lifespan impacts of water contamination in Native American communities are far broader than simply the health risks of consuming contaminated water; consequently, risk assessment must be designed accordingly. Discuss how Tribal College partnerships can help strengthen community capacity in environmental health and build community support of research and science.

Keywords: Environmental Health, Native Americans

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I was born and raised on the Apsaalooke (Crow) Reservation and am a Tribal member. As a bilingual professional health educator serving my community, I helped initiate the described research and am a founding and continuing member of the Crow Environmental Health Steering Committee which has been guiding this work since 2004. Iím a long-time member of the Board of Trustees for our academic partner Little Big Horn College and hold an MSW.
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.