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Barbara Polivka, PhD, RN

Award Name Pilot Grant


Building Environmental Public Health Literacy

The Ohio State University Center for Clinical and Translational Science has awarded Barbara Polivka, PhD, RN; Rosemary Chaudry, PhD, MHA, MPH, RN; John Crawford, PhD, RN; and fellow collaborators a pilot grant for their community engagement in research project exploring environmental public health literacy.

Polivka’s focus is in public health nursing, specifically environmental public health, and she is a lead poisoning prevention expert.

The research team is working with an urban community to identify environmental public health literacy issues. “The study is taking place in Weinland Park, which faces environmental health problems,” Polivka said.

“A lot of people don’t understand the language that’s being used by environmentalists, scientists, experts, even the media.”

The project uses a mental model approach that identifies what the community members know, what the experts know, and the gap between the two. The project will identify what is being done, what can be done, and member’s opinions on the matter. The project will use focus groups, interviews, photo voice, and go-alongs to collect data.

This complex project has three goals. The first is to develop a relationship with the community and identify the residents’ priorities about environmental health issues in the community.

To help build and sustain this relationship, the project uses a community-based participatory research orientation, in which the research team and the community come together to plan, conduct, and disseminate results of the project. Residents, other community stakeholders, and the research team comprise a steering committee that directs the project.

The second goal is to test the mental model approach in a new way. Normally, the experts’ knowledge is considered the gold standard.

“(In this study) we’re not saying the experts are the gold standard,” Polivka said. “We’re saying that everybody has a different language and that we have to figure out what the commonalities and the differences are.”

The third goal is to pilot two new data collection methods, photovoice, and go-alongs. Both methods allow community members to directly describe and present their perceptions of environmental health issues in their community.

The two topic areas the steering committee identified as focus areas are potentially contaminated areas where industrial buildings used to be, referred to as Brownfields, and litter and trash. Polivka said they both fit under the umbrella of soil contamination, and the steering committee will focus on how they affect public health in Weinland Park.

Weinland Park was chosen because Chaudry had been involved in local studies previously and the group was able to pick up from there. Polivka said the university has invested in the area, which houses a diverse population with diverse needs.

Polivka, Chaudry, and Crawford are also working with one graduate student and two undergraduate students on the project.

The focus groups and interviews should start in mid-May, and the photovoice and go-alongs will begin this summer. Polivka hopes to have results by the end of autumn, when the steering committee will present to the community to get feedback for the next step.

By Emily Tramte, Wednesday, June 30, 2010

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