Special Issue "Environmental Health Literacy and Equity"

A special issue of International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (ISSN 1660-4601). This special issue belongs to the section "Health Communication and Informatics".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 15 December 2021.

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Rima E. Rudd
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, 677 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02115, USA
Interests: health literacy; social determinants
Dr. Cynthia Baur
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
University of Maryland, School of Public Health, Horowitz Center for Health Literacy, 4200 Valley Drive, College Park, MD 20742, USA
Interests: health communication; risk communication; health literacy
Ms. Kathryn Tomsho
E-Mail Website
Assistant Guest Editor
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Department of Environmental Health. 677 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02115, USA
Interests: environmental health; exposure assessment; health literacy; social justice
Dr. Vanessa Simonds
E-Mail Website
Assistant Guest Editor
Department of Health and Human Development, Montana State University, Herrick Hall 316D, Bozeman, MT 59717, USA
Interests: health literacy; community-based participatory research; American Indian populations
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Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

This Special Issue will be devoted to environmental health literacy inquiries. We call for papers focused on Issues such as inhibiting access to information or establishing barriers to engagement, as well as papers exploring efficacious actions.

Environmental health issues including those related to the climate crisis, natural and anthropogenic disasters, air and water quality, workplace exposures, and increased industrialization require more widespread awareness. If environmental scientific findings, evidence of health consequences of environmental degradation, risk analyses, local and national policy options, and/or emerging issues are “available” but not “accessible” to the general public, then knowledge as well as action is stymied.

Accumulated health literacy studies over the past two decades indicate that, on average, adults’ health-related literacy and numeracy skills are quite limited and that such limitations carry health consequences. Rigorous international surveys of adult literacy indicate that, across all industrialized nations, lower literacy and numeracy skills are more likely to be found among members of minority population groups as compared to those with majority status in their country, among those living in under-resourced areas compared to more affluent areas, those un- or underemployed compared to those fully employed, and those living in poverty compared to those with higher income. These inequities are exacerbated by the overwhelming findings that health materials are generally written at levels of complexity far beyond the reading skills of average high-school graduates. These information inequities are further compounded by other social and environmental inequities related to communities’ and workers’ exposures, hazards, and polluted and degraded spaces.

Scientists, researchers, and health practitioners are being challenged to re-examine their own assumptions, expectations, and communication skills. This is a necessary step in reducing barriers that impede access to information and that constrain risk perceptions, decision making, and healthful action on multiple levels, including individual/family, neighborhood/community, and geo-political. The “translation” of scientific findings into public discourse can support local, national, and international advocacy and policy responses. Citizen science is one approach, for example, that provides opportunities for the general public to collaborate with scientists, gain knowledge, and translate findings into action. Environmental justice is another approach that envisions fair access, involvement, and treatment for all with respect to environmental laws, policies, and regulations (https://www.epa.gov/environmentaljustice).

Submissions should address environmental health literacy—the intersection of health literacy and environmental studies. Papers that document problems as well as interventions and options for equitable and effective engagement and action are welcome.

Dr. Rima E. Rudd
Dr. Cynthia Baur
Ms. Kathryn Tomsho
Dr. Vanessa Simonds
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2300 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Health literacy
  • Environmental literacy
  • Inequities
  • Risk communication
  • Environmental justice

Published Papers (3 papers)

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Research

Article
Knowledge and Beliefs Associated with Environmental Health Literacy: A Case Study Focused on Toxic Metals Contamination of Well Water
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(17), 9298; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph18179298 - 03 Sep 2021
Viewed by 435
Abstract
Environmental health literacy (EHL) is developing as a framework that can inform educational interventions designed to facilitate individual and collective action to protect health, yet EHL measurement poses several challenges. While some studies have measured environmental health knowledge resulting from interventions, few have [...] Read more.
Environmental health literacy (EHL) is developing as a framework that can inform educational interventions designed to facilitate individual and collective action to protect health, yet EHL measurement poses several challenges. While some studies have measured environmental health knowledge resulting from interventions, few have incorporated skills and self-efficacy. In this study, a process-focused EHL instrument was developed, using the Newest Vital Sign (NVS) health literacy instrument as a model and tailoring it for the context of private well contamination with toxic metals. Forty-seven (47) participants, including undergraduate students and residents of communities with contaminated well water, piloted a prototype EHL instrument alongside NVS. Results suggested a moderate degree of correlation between NVS and the EHL prototype, and significant differences in scores were observed between students and residents. Responses to a self-efficacy survey, tailored for drinking water contaminated with arsenic, revealed significant differences between students and residents on items related to cost and distance. In response to open-ended questions, participants identified a range of potential environmental contaminants in drinking water and deemed varied information sources as reliable. This study highlights differences in knowledge and self-efficacy among students and residents and raises questions about the adequacy of EHL assessments that mimic formal education approaches. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental Health Literacy and Equity)
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Article
Mercury Exposure among E-Waste Recycling Workers in Colombia: Perceptions of Safety, Risk, and Access to Health Information
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(17), 9295; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph18179295 - 03 Sep 2021
Viewed by 574
Abstract
Exposures to the toxic element mercury (Hg) are exceptionally high among recycling workers globally. Recycling is a growing sector in Colombia, yet workers who directly handle e-waste are often unaware of the risks of exposure to mercury from post-consumer lighting products (e.g., fluorescent [...] Read more.
Exposures to the toxic element mercury (Hg) are exceptionally high among recycling workers globally. Recycling is a growing sector in Colombia, yet workers who directly handle e-waste are often unaware of the risks of exposure to mercury from post-consumer lighting products (e.g., fluorescent lamps). This qualitative study aimed to understand how recycling workers perceive their own risks from mercury exposure and how they find information about these risks, through interviews (n = 35) at the three largest formal recycling facilities in Colombia. Workers’ risk perception was generally disconnected from their likely actual exposure to mercury, instead often seen juxtaposed to co-workers who worked more directly with hazardous waste. Recycling workers, who were predominantly men from lower-income socioeconomic backgrounds, had limited knowledge of health risks due to mercury exposure and were more likely to receive health-related information from informal sources. Over a third of interviewees had searched online for information about occupational health risks of mercury, but these searches were perceived as unsatisfactory due to information being difficult to find, not available in Spanish, or related to mercury exposure via seafood or mining rather than recycling. Workers expressed (over)confidence in personal protective equipment and concern about frequent employee turnover. This study points to weaknesses in environmental health literacy and public health communication around toxic exposures to mercury in the workplace. Stronger regulation and enforcement are needed to prevent toxic exposures and promote worker health equity. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental Health Literacy and Equity)
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Article
What Do Childcare Providers Know about Environmental Influences on Children’s Health? Implications for Environmental Health Literacy Efforts
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(10), 5489; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph18105489 - 20 May 2021
Viewed by 789
Abstract
Children are uniquely vulnerable to toxicant exposures in their environment, which can have long-lasting impacts on their health. Childcare providers are an important population to target for environmental health literacy, as most children in the United States under five years of age spend [...] Read more.
Children are uniquely vulnerable to toxicant exposures in their environment, which can have long-lasting impacts on their health. Childcare providers are an important population to target for environmental health literacy, as most children in the United States under five years of age spend a significant number of waking hours in non-parental care. There is an increasing body of evidence that children are exposed to toxicants in the childcare environment, and yet little is known about what childcare providers know about environmental influences on the health of children in their care. We conducted semi-structured interviews with 36 home- and center-based Illinois childcare providers to better understand their knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors as they relate to environmental influences on children’s health. We found that the majority of providers had a low level of understanding of potential sources of exposure in the childcare environment, and they did not feel that environmental exposures posed a significant risk to children. Future efforts to increase environmental health literacy should focus on raising awareness and knowledge of environmental health issues for childcare providers before addressing ways that providers can reduce or prevent toxicant exposures to children in their care. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental Health Literacy and Equity)
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