Awareness of environmental risks and protective actions among minority women in Northern Manhattan

We report findings of a survey of 555 women 18-35 years of age living in Northern Manhattan in New York City. The survey was conducted by the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health (CCCEH) to learn what community women knew about environmental risks to health and what they did to protect themselves and their families, to validate the findings of focus groups held with community women, and to provide information for planning the Healthy Home, Healthy Child campaign sponsored by CCCEH. Survey findings showed that overall awareness of environmental risks to children’s health was high, with more than 95% of respondents identifying lead, household pests, pesticides, environmental tobacco smoke, and drugs as harmful to health. Similarly, more than 95% of respondents reported taking one or more protective actions to reduce these risks, suggesting that these factors significantly concern women living in Northern Manhattan. The reported levels of specific protective actions to reduce these risks, however, varied greatly. In each area of risk the most frequently reported actions were effective ones, but many other important protective actions were rarely mentioned, suggesting that there was room for an educational campaign to teach women new ways to protect their families. Survey respondents and CCCEH scientists differed in the priorities they placed on the importance of key protective actions, confirming earlier focus group findings and suggesting the importance of incorporating community concerns into the planning of environmental campaigns.

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