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New Directions in Environmental Communication Research

A special issue of International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (ISSN 1660-4601).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 July 2019) | Viewed by 31010

Special Issue Editors


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Guest Editor
Department of Communication, Michigan State University, 404 Wilson Road, Room 473, East Lansing, MI 48824-1212, USA
Interests: diffusion of innovations; dissemination and implementation science; opinion leadership; inter-organizational networks; communication research

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Guest Editor
Department of Communication Studies, Albion College, 611 East Porter Street, Albion, MI 49224, USA
Interests: health and risk communication; health literacy and numeracy; diffusion of innovations; social science methods; communication research

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Environmental and health communication has become increasingly important across the world, partly due to the increased number of communities, towns, and cities that are badly polluted with toxic chemicals. Residents have fears not only about their family’s health, but also about the quality of their living environments, as well as their investments in homes and properties. Governments at local, provincial, state, and federal levels play central roles in identifying and characterizing risks and then overseeing remediation of polluted water and soil. The result is a complex interplay of stakeholder interests that co-occur while polluted sites are cleaned up.

This Special Issue focuses on communication research and practice in one of the oldest and largest toxic chemical research programs in the United States, the Superfund Research Program. This program supports research and community engagement at 22 funded centers across the U.S. that involve more than 100 institutions and 1700 researchers in 40 states. Superfund researchers have produced more than 11,600 peer-reviewed articles. Articles in this Special Issue will include lessons learned about community-based environmental and health communication, including those with disadvantaged populations.

Prof. Dr. James W. Dearing
Dr. Jeffrey G. Cox
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2500 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Community engagement
  • Disease prevention
  • Environmental and health communication
  • Risk communication
  • Shared decision-making
  • Diffusion of innovations
  • Media coverage
  • Property values
  • Superfund Research Program

Published Papers (10 papers)

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Editorial

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3 pages, 231 KiB  
Editorial
Scaling Up Solutions to Toxic Contamination in Communities
by James W. Dearing
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(17), 3034; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16173034 - 22 Aug 2019
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2054
Abstract
In this special issue of IJERPH, we feature studies conducted by research translation and community engagement teams that are funded through the Superfund Research Program in the United States. These and other teams funded by this program demonstrate how environmental and health communication [...] Read more.
In this special issue of IJERPH, we feature studies conducted by research translation and community engagement teams that are funded through the Superfund Research Program in the United States. These and other teams funded by this program demonstrate how environmental and health communication research can contribute to generalizable lessons about helping and empowering contaminated communities. These types of applied behavioral, social and communication projects are important because while much about our communities is unique and must be addressed on a case by case basis, other aspects of research translation and community engagement processes are potentially generalizable across sites and can thus be used to scale up solutions to toxic contamination to other communities and countries more rapidly than would otherwise occur. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue New Directions in Environmental Communication Research)

Research

Jump to: Editorial, Other

15 pages, 1228 KiB  
Article
Risk, Stigma, Trustworthiness, and Citizen Participation—A Multifaceted Analysis of Media Coverage of Dioxin Contamination in Midland, Michigan
by Jie Zhuang, Jeffrey G. Cox, Minwoong Chung, Joseph A. Hamm, Adam Zwickle and Brad L. Upham
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(21), 4165; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16214165 - 29 Oct 2019
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 3062
Abstract
In the United States, more than 200 communities are designated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as areas of concern for dioxins. Informing the public about potential risks associated with dioxins and delivering information about how to avoid such risks are essential activities. [...] Read more.
In the United States, more than 200 communities are designated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as areas of concern for dioxins. Informing the public about potential risks associated with dioxins and delivering information about how to avoid such risks are essential activities. News coverage of environmental and health problems affects how members of the public assess those problems in terms of both severity and how they are understood, as well as the extent of attention given to the problem by policy-makers. To contextualize public and institutional responses to dioxin contamination and remediation in a dioxin-affected community, we assessed 176 newspaper articles published over 30 years concerning dioxin contamination in Midland, Michigan, in terms of risk, trust in institutions, environmental stigma, and citizen participation. Articles about dioxin contamination and remediation in Midland appeared in both domestic and international newspapers. Domestically, both national and local newspapers covered this issue. The risks for human health and the environment caused by exposure to dioxins were widely covered, with much less media attention given to the trustworthiness of the organizations responsible for managing the risk, environmental stigma, and citizen participation. News coverage of these four themes also changed significantly overtime. Overall, our findings highlight the important role of local news media in communicating risk information, guiding safe behaviors, and facilitating community-level decision-making. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue New Directions in Environmental Communication Research)
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11 pages, 302 KiB  
Communication
Working with Institutional Stakeholders: Propositions for Alternative Approaches to Community Engagement
by Jeffrey G. Cox, Minwoong Chung, Joseph A. Hamm, Adam Zwickle, Shannon M. Cruz and James W. Dearing
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(20), 4010; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16204010 - 19 Oct 2019
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2652
Abstract
Community engagement is a vital aspect of addressing environmental contamination and remediation. In the United States, the Superfund Research Program (SRP) forms groups of academic researchers from the social and physical sciences into Community Engagement Cores (CECs) and Research Translation Cores (RTCs), which [...] Read more.
Community engagement is a vital aspect of addressing environmental contamination and remediation. In the United States, the Superfund Research Program (SRP) forms groups of academic researchers from the social and physical sciences into Community Engagement Cores (CECs) and Research Translation Cores (RTCs), which focus on various aspects of informing and working with communities during and through the resolution of environmental crises. While this work typically involves engaging directly with members of affected communities, no two situations are the same. In some cases, alternative approaches to community engagement can be more appropriate for community improvement than traditional approaches. In particular, when research teams become involved in contamination crises at a late point in the process, their contributions can be better directed at supporting and reinforcing the work of institutional stakeholders charged with remediating pollution. Relevant factors include issue fatigue among a local population, and contamination that is due to a major employer. Supported by literature and experience, we offer several propositions that we believe lay out conditions that warrant such an approach by academic teams, rather than their direct engagement with unaffiliated individuals in communities. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue New Directions in Environmental Communication Research)
9 pages, 767 KiB  
Article
The Effect of Dioxin Contamination and Remediation on Property Values
by Adam Zwickle, Jeffrey G. Cox, Jie Zhuang, Joseph A. Hamm, Brad L. Upham, Minwoong Chung, Shannon Cruz and James W. Dearing
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(20), 3900; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16203900 - 15 Oct 2019
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2799
Abstract
Loss of property value is a major concern in communities faced with the toxic byproducts of industrial practices. Even after site remediation, stigma may persist and negatively affect market values of residential properties. To study the effects of contamination and of remediation on [...] Read more.
Loss of property value is a major concern in communities faced with the toxic byproducts of industrial practices. Even after site remediation, stigma may persist and negatively affect market values of residential properties. To study the effects of contamination and of remediation on property values in Midland, Michigan, where dioxins have been released into the environment through the incineration of contaminated waste and the discharge of contaminated water for many years, records of assessed value were obtained for 229 homes within the same neighborhood for the previous 18 years. A multilevel, longitudinal analysis was conducted to determine if there was a relationship between level of dioxin and assessed value after controlling for housing characteristics. Remediated and un-remediated properties saw increases in value at a similar rate over time. However, a property’s level of dioxin was found to have a small, significant, and negative relationship with assessed value, and this negative effect was present regardless if a home had been remediated or not. These results suggest that while environmental remediation may be effective at removing the contamination, its economic effects may persist for a longer period of time. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue New Directions in Environmental Communication Research)
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18 pages, 1503 KiB  
Article
Bi-Directional Learning: Identifying Contaminants on the Yurok Indian Reservation
by Beth Rose Middleton, Sabine Talaugon, Thomas M. Young, Luann Wong, Suzanne Fluharty, Kaitlin Reed, Christine Cosby and Richard Myers II
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(19), 3513; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16193513 - 20 Sep 2019
Cited by 12 | Viewed by 3491
Abstract
The Yurok Tribe partnered with the University of California Davis (UC Davis) Superfund Research Program to identify and address contaminants in the Klamath watershed that may be impairing human and ecosystem health. We draw on a community-based participatory research approach that begins with [...] Read more.
The Yurok Tribe partnered with the University of California Davis (UC Davis) Superfund Research Program to identify and address contaminants in the Klamath watershed that may be impairing human and ecosystem health. We draw on a community-based participatory research approach that begins with community concerns, includes shared duties across the research process, and collaborative interpretation of results. A primary challenge facing University and Tribal researchers on this project is the complexity of the relationship(s) between the identity and concentrations of contaminants and the diversity of illnesses plaguing community members. The framework of bi-directional learning includes Yurok-led river sampling, Yurok traditional ecological knowledge, University lab analysis, and collaborative interpretation of results. Yurok staff and community members share their unique exposure pathways, their knowledge of the landscape, their past scientific studies, and the history of landscape management, and University researchers use both specific and broad scope chemical screening techniques to attempt to identify contaminants and their sources. Both university and tribal knowledge are crucial to understanding the relationship between human and environmental health. This paper examines University and Tribal researchers’ shared learning, progress, and challenges at the end of the second year of a five-year Superfund Research Program (SRP) grant to identify and remediate toxins in the lower Klamath River watershed. Our water quality research is framed within a larger question of how to best build university–Tribal collaboration to address contamination and associated human health impacts. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue New Directions in Environmental Communication Research)
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16 pages, 321 KiB  
Article
Combining Social Science and Environmental Health Research for Community Engagement
by Alissa Cordner, Grace Poudrier, Jesse DiValli and Phil Brown
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(18), 3483; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16183483 - 19 Sep 2019
Cited by 16 | Viewed by 3892
Abstract
Social science-environmental health (SS-EH) research takes many structural forms and contributes to a wide variety of topical areas. In this article we discuss the general nature of SS-EH contributions and offer a new typology of SS-EH practice that situates this type of research [...] Read more.
Social science-environmental health (SS-EH) research takes many structural forms and contributes to a wide variety of topical areas. In this article we discuss the general nature of SS-EH contributions and offer a new typology of SS-EH practice that situates this type of research in a larger transdisciplinary sensibility: (1) environmental health science influenced by social science; (2) social science studies of environmental health; and (3) social science-environmental health collaborations. We describe examples from our own and others’ work and we discuss the central role that research centers, training programs, and conferences play in furthering SS-EH research. We argue that the third form of SS-EH research, SS-EH collaborations, offers the greatest potential for improving public and environmental health, though such collaborations come with important challenges and demand constant reflexivity on the part of researchers. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue New Directions in Environmental Communication Research)
13 pages, 3694 KiB  
Communication
Communicating Arsenic’s Risks
by Shannon H. Rogers, Laurie R. Rardin, Kathrin Lawlor, Celia Y. Chen and Mark. E. Borsuk
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(18), 3436; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16183436 - 16 Sep 2019
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 2775
Abstract
Arsenic is a naturally occurring toxic metalloid that has many human health implications. Its strong prevalence in the bedrock and thus much of the well water in New England puts many private well owners at risk. It is also found in food products, [...] Read more.
Arsenic is a naturally occurring toxic metalloid that has many human health implications. Its strong prevalence in the bedrock and thus much of the well water in New England puts many private well owners at risk. It is also found in food products, particularly those that contain rice. Despite the documented health risks, arsenic is not high on the list of concerns for residents of the region. This study will describe two types of environmental communication efforts that have been undertaken by the Dartmouth Toxic Metals Superfund Research Program (DTMSRP)—the development and evaluation of a comprehensive website, Arsenic and You, and a mental models research approach to better understand the disconnect between expert and community perceptions of arsenic risk. We find that there are knowledge gaps between the two, particularly regarding the origin of arsenic in drinking water and food, the necessity of testing well water, and the process for treating water that is above recommended limits. Moreover, the mental models approach provides a structured framework for better understanding these gaps. A website can address some of these disconnects, and it is important to have a “one-stop shop” for vetted information on the risks and steps to reduce exposure. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue New Directions in Environmental Communication Research)
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6 pages, 253 KiB  
Communication
The Importance of Community Engagement and Research Translation within the NIEHS Superfund Research Program
by Brittany A. Trottier, Danielle J. Carlin, Michelle L. Heacock, Heather F. Henry and William A. Suk
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(17), 3067; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16173067 - 23 Aug 2019
Cited by 9 | Viewed by 3168
Abstract
The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Superfund Research Program (SRP) funds university-based, solution-oriented research to understand how hazardous substances contribute to disease and how to prevent exposures to these hazardous substances. A unique aspect of the SRP is that, beyond the biomedical, [...] Read more.
The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Superfund Research Program (SRP) funds university-based, solution-oriented research to understand how hazardous substances contribute to disease and how to prevent exposures to these hazardous substances. A unique aspect of the SRP is that, beyond the biomedical, environmental sciences, and engineering research projects, SRP-funded centers are required to include community engagement to build partnerships with affected communities and research translation to communicate and facilitate the use of research findings. The SRP views both as effective ways to inform and advance science for protection of public health. The purpose of community engagement within the centers is to ensure bidirectional communication between the researchers and the community, identify best practices and activities in community engagement for prevention and intervention activities, enhance knowledge, and support the needs of the communities impacted by hazardous waste sites. The SRP views research translation as communicating and facilitating the use of research findings emanating from the center in a manner most appropriate for their application and for the advancement of a center’s research objectives. The SRP has a strong history of seeking opportunities to work with communities and stakeholders, by translating and sharing research findings in an impactful and informative manner with long-lasting benefits to improve public health. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue New Directions in Environmental Communication Research)

Other

Jump to: Editorial, Research

10 pages, 660 KiB  
Perspective
The Environmental Protection Agency’s Use of Community Involvement to Engage Communities at Superfund Sites
by Larry J. Zaragoza
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(21), 4166; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16214166 - 29 Oct 2019
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 3877
Abstract
The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Superfund program was established to identify, assess and clean up the nation’s worst hazardous waste sites to protect human health and the environment. Community involvement is an important part of the Superfund program for at least three reasons. [...] Read more.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Superfund program was established to identify, assess and clean up the nation’s worst hazardous waste sites to protect human health and the environment. Community involvement is an important part of the Superfund program for at least three reasons. First, involving communities in decision making at Superfund sites is a statutory requirement. Second, community involvement is important so that clean up decisions will support reuse in the surrounding community. Third, because even after cleanup many sites have residual contamination that warrants administrative and legal controls to protect health and the environment, community members should understand these controls to both help protect community members and any limitations on site reuse. Community feedback informs both proposed actions and local reuse decisions. While the EPA recognizes that the agency performs many activities that are helpful to support community involvement, there are areas in need of improvement and further research would be helpful for communities in the future. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue New Directions in Environmental Communication Research)
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13 pages, 315 KiB  
Perspective
Themes Across New Directions in Community Engagement
by Shannon M. Cruz
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(19), 3724; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16193724 - 03 Oct 2019
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2153
Abstract
The articles in this special issue on New Directions in Environmental Communication in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health present new research and perspectives on engaging communities impacted by Superfund sites—the hazardous waste sites that have been identified by the [...] Read more.
The articles in this special issue on New Directions in Environmental Communication in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health present new research and perspectives on engaging communities impacted by Superfund sites—the hazardous waste sites that have been identified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as needing cleanup. In particular, these articles focus on the community engagement cores (CECs) that work with affected communities as part the Superfund Research Program at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). The purpose of this closing article is to highlight important themes evident across the eight articles in the special issue. When considered together, the findings reveal important lessons learned about community engagement and environmental communication, but also reveal that much more remains to be known. Recommendations are made for how these teams can continue to practice, reflect on, and research community engagement in ways that build toward a better understanding and implementation of best practices. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue New Directions in Environmental Communication Research)
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