Date of Award

Spring 4-28-2012

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)

Department

Public Health

First Advisor

John Steward

Second Advisor

Jane Perry

Abstract

Georgia State University’s Institute of Public Health along with the Georgia Department of Public Health’s Chemical Hazards Program conducted a needs assessment survey to learn more about the concerns of environmental advocates and other community leaders in Georgia regarding exposure to toxic chemicals. The purpose of the Georgia Environmental Advocacy Groups Health Education Needs Assessment was to better understand community concerns, to identify hazardous waste sites that might warrant some degree of public health evaluation, to find community leaders and personnel interested in assisting the Chemical Hazards Program in implementing public health interventions, to inform the community about the services offered to the public by the Georgia Department of Public Health and to better understand the best methods for distributing health education material. This is the first time the Chemical Hazards Program has conducted an environmental advocacy group leader needs assessment. The results of this pilot study will help the development of future needs assessments conducted by the CHP.

Survey development began in August of 2011 and Georgia State University Institutional Review Board approval was granted January 2012. Participants were selected due to their current leadership role of a Georgia environmental advocacy group/organization. Contact information was found for 137 environmental group leaders. Depending on available contact information, potential participants either received the survey through the mail or electronically via email. Surveys were distributed on January 13, 2012 and had to be returned by February 20, 2012.

Twenty-one Georgia environmental advocacy group leaders participated in the survey. A majority of participants cited protect/restore natural habitats as the main purpose of their organization, but the survey did reveal 10 environmental groups that focused on protecting human health. Seven of participants that were dedicated to protecting human health expressed interest in working further with the GDPH to develop or implement public health interventions. The survey was also successful in informing participants about the Chemical Hazards Program. Prior to the needs assessment, more than 80% of participants were not aware of the program. Many pertinent suggestions were also made to aid in the development of the brochure aimed at educating community members about the services offered by the CHP.

Although a variety of environmental health concerns were cited by the participants, water quality was most often mentioned. More participants reported they were very concerned about drinking water than any other environment. Ninety percent also reported being either concerned or very concerned about contamination in oceans, lakes and streams. A section of the survey also addressed hazards found within the home, unclean drinking water was selected by far the most often as being of greatest concern compared to all other indoor hazards. Many participants listed specific waste or industrial sites that are of concern among members of their community as a source of contaminants. A few contaminated environments were also listed including specific rivers and lakes. Though many did not list specific sources, the majority of participants cited water contamination as being a chemical contamination issue that has the greatest impact on human health.

The survey helped reveal specific community concerns regarding potential chemical contaminants and sites that may lead to the CHP conducting public health assessments/consultations and exposure investigations. The survey also revealed the need for general environmental health education and intervention activities based on concerns of the participants as well as the lack of concern by many. The survey was also successful in identifying individuals that may help the CHP gain future partnerships and identifying creative methods for distributing health education material. The CHP plans to follow-up with many of the participants and the survey will be further developed and used to survey other leaders, community members, and public health workers etc. to further investigate the needs and concerns of communities across Georgia.

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