“Hey, mom, thanks!”: use of focus groups in the development of place-specific materials for a community environmental action campaign

We examined the relevance of five strategies to reduce the risk of exposure to environmental hazards for African-American and Hispanic children living in Northern Manhattan in New York City. Researchers conducting a community-wide intervention to increase awareness of environmental health hazards identified five strategies for keeping children healthy, preventing asthma, and promoting children’s growth and development. These strategies were based on current scientific knowledge of environmental health and were tested and refined through a series of focus groups. The 14 focus groups were conducted with women of childbearing age living in the communities under study. The purpose of the focus groups was to test the relevancy of the five strategies and to obtain data to inform the intervention’s social action campaign. Here authors discuss the process of identifying strategies for risk reduction and incorporating community residents’ perceptions of risk into health risk messages. The authors argue that broader social and historical contexts are important in shaping community members’ interpretations of risk and subsequent response to health education campaigns.

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