Student Research: Sanders Chai
A needs assessment survey was conducted in the Northwest United States (Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Washington, Wyoming) via one page mailed questionnaire to describe perceptions regarding the levels of concern, specific concerns, sources of information, and frequency of concerns on children's environmental health. The sample population consisted of Head Start parents, PTA presidents, public health officials, school nurses, naturopaths, pediatricians, and family practitioners. A sub-population of Washington State residents received a second mailing to increase response rates. This paper shows the results of the survey including response rates, demographic data, and questionnaire response with an analysis of possible correlations of responses to responder characteristics. Air pollution, allergens, drinking water quality, and food quality hazards were one of the four exposures that ranked consistently in the top three environmental exposures listed in the survey in all respondent categories except naturopaths. Hormones and PCB's had the highest rate of don't know response in all categories except again for naturopaths. Trends in the data show other important disparities in perceptions on children's environmental health also between naturopathic and allopathic providers, clinicians and public health practitioners, and urban and rural residents, particularly in regards to level of concern and specific environmental exposure concerns. Correlations exist between decreasing level of concern and increasing age, male gender, and increasing years in practices. Parents ranked media sources high on the list of resources for children's environmental health and poison centers low. Family practitioners and pediatricians ranked information sources identically with poison centers and medical specialist first and second. This ranking differed substantially from public health officials' who placed governmental agencies first and poison centers third. Understanding the differences in children's environmental health perception as illustrated in this survey may be useful for meaningful risk communication and research and policy resources allocation, especially in lieu of the wide variety of health belief models and the apparently increasing popularity of alternative medical methods. Referral centers with expertise in the area of children's environmental medicine may help clarify situations with environmental health risk concerns via individual clinic encounters as well as epidemiologic population-based health services accompanied by improved risk communication methods.