Framing Scientific Analyses for Risk Management of Environmental Hazards by Communities: Case Studies with Seafood Safety Issues

By Judd, Nancy L.; Drew, Christina H. et al. | Environmental Health Perspectives, November 2005 | Go to article overview

Framing Scientific Analyses for Risk Management of Environmental Hazards by Communities: Case Studies with Seafood Safety Issues


Judd, Nancy L., Drew, Christina H., Acharya, Chetana, Mitchell, Todd A., Donatuto, Jamie L., Burns, Gary W., Burbacher, Thomas M., Faustman, Elaine M., Environmental Health Perspectives


Risk management provides a context for addressing environmental health hazards. Critical to this approach is the identification of key opportunities for participation. We applied a framework based on the National Research Council's (NRC) analytic-deliberative risk management dialogue model that illustrates two main iterative processes: informing and framing. The informing process involves conveying information from analyses of risk issues, often scientific, to all parties so they can participate in deliberation. In the framing process, ideas and concerns from stakeholder deliberations help determine what and how scientific analyses will be carried out. There are few activities through which affected parties can convey their ideas from deliberative processes for framing scientific analyses. The absence of participation results in one-way communication. The analytic-deliberative dialogue, as envisioned by the NRC and promoted by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), underscores the importance of two-way communication. In this article we present case studies of three groups--an Asian and Pacific Islander community coalition and two Native American Tribes--active in framing scientific analyses of health risks related to contaminated seafood. Contacts with these organizations were established or enhanced through a regional NIEHS town meeting. The reasons for concern, participation, approaches, and funding sources were different for each group. Benefits from their activities include increased community involvement and ownership, better focusing of analytical processes, and improved accuracy and appropriateness of risk management. These examples present a spectrum of options for increasing community involvement in framing analyses and highlight the need for increased support of such activities. Key words: Asian and Pacific Islanders, case studies, communities, community-based participatory research, framing, risk management, seafood, tribal nations. Environ Health Perspect 113:1502-1508 (2005). doi:10.1289/ehp.7655 available via http://dx.doi.org/[Online 27 June 2005]

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Risk management provides a context for addressing environmental health hazards. Critical to this approach is the identification of key opportunities for participation. Ideally, affected parties are involved early and throughout the decision process through continuing dialogue. The reality, however, often falls short of this ideal. The involvement of affected parties is commonly limited to community members' being informed of the results collected and assessed by scientific experts and decision makers. Increasingly, communities are provided the opportunity to comment on documents or studies that are presented to them in near-final form, but rarely is community input used to frame and provide context at the outset of the studies themselves. Here we explore some of the opportunities and challenges of broader community participation within the theoretical structure of the risk-management paradigm. We begin by presenting a model of the analytic--deliberative risk-management framework, with an emphasis on framing activities in this structure, and then present three examples that illustrate community approaches to flaming exercises. Using examples of activities by communities with concerns about seafood safety, we explore a range of options for increasing community involvement in shaping the scientific approaches used in risk management.

Our examples come primarily from established connections between University of Washington researchers and community partners. These connections originated or were developed more fully through the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Center for Ecogenetics and Environmental Health's town meeting, "Voices for Healthy Environments, Healthy Communities," held in Seattle, Washington in September 2000. The NIEHS Center for Ecogenetics and Environmental Health (CEEH) researchers and staff interacted with > 300 participants, representing > 40 community groups, tribal nations, legislators, and agencies, in challenging discussions of race, poverty, and pollution.

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