Online Program

Utilizing effective community engagement strategies to enhance the built environment by eliminating sanitary sewer overflows in an urban setting

Monday, November 2, 2015

Margaret Hiermer, MBA, RAMA Consulting Group, Inc., Columbus, OH
Melissa Thomas, PhD, MSPH, MSA, MCHES, CN-BP, C.CHW, Office of Health Equity, OhioHealth Research & Innovation Institute, Columbus, OH
Haley Riegel, MPH, CHES, Office of Health Equity, OhioHealth Research & Innovation Institute, Columbus, OH
Although much is being done to eliminate sanitary sewer overflows, it is estimated there are still up to 75,000 incidents each year across the country. These overflows of untreated sewage can compromise water quality, contaminate waterways and threaten public health.  The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences recommended areas for further research, which included studying methods and channels to translate research findings to the community and improving communication strategies, particularly encouraging community participation in research efforts.  Currently, there has been no research utilizing the Community Readiness Model in built environment interventions, but a review of the literature clearly states that community engagement is vital to successful environmental management. 

Blueprint Columbus is the city of Columbus’ plan to eliminate sanitary sewer overflows by addressing the source of the problem mostly occurring on private property.  Using the Community Readiness Model (CRM), community members from business, health care, education, and civic sectors were interviewed from five communities involved in Columbus’ approach to addressing sewer overflow. Key Informant Interviews were utilized to determine the community’s perceptions and determine readiness to accept change surrounding the elimination of sanitary sewer overflows.  Factors for analysis within the structured CRM interview process included the existing efforts to address the issue, community knowledge of the efforts, leadership and community climate, knowledge about the issue and available resources.

A mixed-model approach was adopted that included a conventional content analysis of the individual transcribed interviews.  Findings validated our study hypothesis about the lack of community and leadership awareness of sewer overflows in areas where there has been limited community engagement.  Based on the results of CRM’s qualitative scoring and thematic analysis process, appropriate and targeted intervention strategies were developed to address specific community readiness levels in each individual community.

Learning Areas:

Assessment of individual and community needs for health education
Environmental health sciences
Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs
Program planning
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
Identify appropriate interventions per community to address sewer overflows based on the community’s readiness level; Demonstrate how the Community Readiness Model can be used to address sewer overflows in a community; Describe the significance of determining a community’s readiness level before implementing built environment interventions.

Keyword(s): Built Environment, Water & Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am the Program Manager for the consulting organization leading community engagement efforts on Blueprint Columbus, the City of Columbus’ plan to eliminate sanitary sewer overflows that aims to solve the sewer overflow challenge. I am also the Principal Investigator of the CRM study. I have over 15 years’ experience in designing, leading and delivering effective evidence-based community engagement strategies for public sector agencies and programs.
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.