Samantha Lovell

Project title: Evaluation of a Community-Engaged Approach to Assess Climate and Disaster Risk Perception and Priorities

Degree: MPH | Program: Environmental and Occupational Health (EOH) | Project type: Thesis/Dissertation
Completed in: 2023 | Faculty advisor: Nicole Errett


As the Duwamish Valley community in Seattle, Washington and other environmental justice communities nationally contend with growing risks from climate change, there have been calls for a more community-centered approach to understanding impacts and priorities to inform resilience planning. To address this gap, a partnership of professionals and researchers from the University of Washington, the City of Seattle, Public Health Seattle & King County, the Washington State Department of Health, and the Duwamish River Community Coalition co-produced a survey instrument, and collected data from the community using an adapted approach based on the “Community Assessment for Public Health Emergency Response” (CASPER) method to engage community members and identify climate and resilience priorities as part of a pilot project titled the, “Seattle Assessment for Public Health Emergency Response,” (SASPER). This current research evaluates the process and outcomes of the SASPER to identify lessons learned for future assessments in Seattle and in communities across the country to inform efforts for inclusive community engagement in climate resilience. Drawing on tenets of culturally responsive evaluation, this evaluation uses a mixed-methods approach, combining quantitative survey data collected from youth and adult volunteers with qualitative information from in-depth key informant interviews with project team members. Data from the feedback surveys were summarized to identify the level of agreement volunteers had with various statements. Key informant interviews were recorded, professionally transcribed, coded, and thematically analyzed using the framework method for qualitative research. Volunteers provided positive feedback on the SASPER experience, with over 85% agreeing or strongly agreeing that they learned new skills, they were prepared for the surveying, and that they would participate in future assessments. The key informant interviews underscored that, while the SASPER may have demonstrated feasibility in a pre-disaster phase, the method may not be appropriate to use post-disaster or in meeting the needs and priorities of partners due to its lack of focus on equity and other logistical limitations. Future research should focus on identifying survey strategies that provide the rigor, reliability, and validity of the CASPER method while enabling a focus on equity in a less resource-intensive manner.