Honors Theses

Date of Award

12-2018

Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis

Department

Sociology and Anthropology

First Advisor

John Green

Relational Format

Thesis/Dissertation

Abstract

Environmental health issues are complex and require interdisciplinary and community engagement approaches to better understand them and inform policy. As one example, lead exposure has a number of dangerous neurological effects, including developmental delays and learning deficits. Potential lead exposure through drinking water and paint are areas of concern. In a 2018 document, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimated that up to 20% of lead exposure comes from drinking water alone. By using a type of engagement research called community-based research (CBR), this project began to address this major public health issue. CBR can be used to connect residents, their local organizations, and researchers to address a public health issue such as lead exposure. This project implemented and evaluated methods of outreach, research, and education to monitor and reduce lead exposure in drinking water. Operating primarily within the Mississippi Delta, partners worked with community organizational leaders to engage their constituencies around lead. These partners helped to foster an environment of learning and inclusion that gives community members the opportunity to engage a problem themselves. The team conducted several community outreach events in different areas of the Delta where participants could learn about the dangers of lead and have their water tested for lead content. Each workshop employed common CBR strategies, yet each followed a somewhat different structure. The effectiveness of these methods was evaluated using both quantitative and qualitative analysis. We found that some methods were more effective in terms of self-reflected community engagement, bottle return rates, and cost effectiveness. The results of these analyses allowed us to make recommendations for improved outreach and engagement as well as the use of these approaches for more effective environmental health policies.

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