Community Research in Environmental Health: Studies in Science, Advocacy and Ethics

By Whitzman, Carolyn | Health Sociology Review, October 2007 | Go to article overview
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Community Research in Environmental Health: Studies in Science, Advocacy and Ethics


Whitzman, Carolyn, Health Sociology Review


COMMUNITY RESEARCH IN ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH: STUDIES IN SCIENCE, ADVOCACY AND ETHICS Doug Brugge and H Patricia Hynes (eds) Aldershot, England, Burlington USA: Ashgate 2005, PB 288pp, AUD 45.00, ISBN: 0-07546-4176-7

As an urban planner concerned with healthy communities, it is always a pleasure to read . a good book written by public health researchers. Public health has a strong tradition of methodological rigour as well as commitment to positive social outcomes. Increasingly, there is an interest in place-based research, a return to the traditionally strong interaction between urban planning and public health. Community Research in Environmental Health is part of this interaction, gathering together recent health research in housing, open space, urban development and environmental exposure.

In gathering their collection, the editors focused on community research which they define as 'research conducted at the community level with active participation by members of the community'. The rise of community research is tied to the environmental justice movement which has focused on policy-related research relevant to the poor and visible minority communities. In the United States as elsewhere, socially disadvantaged people have often borne a disproportionate share of environmental hazards, and a coalition of ecological and social equity activists have sought to expose and minimise these injustices. The editors' work on the assumption that a place-based and communitybased research focus (not the same thing, since there are communities of interest which are not geographic) can help bring 'science to the people', and improve social, economic, and political, as well as health, outcomes. They are also strongly supportive of community-campus partnerships for health-related research, a movement which has burgeoned in the United States in recent years.

The chapters cover issues like research ethics, policy outcomes of health research, and methodology, in settings as diverse as inner-city public housing, urban watersheds, and Native American reservations. Several of the chapters are particularly strong on policy implications, such as Doug Brugge and colleagues' research on how traffic injury data was used to influence transportation policy in Boston's Chinatown, and Rachel Morello-Frosch and colleagues' review of recent research in perhaps the most publicised location for the environmental justice movement, Southern California.

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