Re-forming the risk message: A grounded theory of engaging health information
Oneal, Gail Ann
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Low-income rural dwelling families are at risk for more exposure to environmental hazards due to larger percentages of substandard housing, the types of industries found in rural areas, and less access to resources for remediation and environmental education. Public health interventions designed to reduce environmental risks have taken place in the past decade, with expected outcomes of decreased risks in homes and improved health behaviors related to environmental health. Although there have been positive results for improved health conditions and decreases in hazardous exposures, there have been mixed results with health behavior change. Additionally, there has been no exploration of rural families' health decisions that affect behavior regarding the use of environmental health information. A qualitative study using grounded theory methodology was undertaken to explore the effects that one public health nursing intervention has had in the process of engaging environmental health information, regarding environmental risk reduction by rural low-income families with children in the Pacific Northwest. Ten participants from the intervention study were interviewed to answer the research question: How do rural low-income families with children use new environmental health information? Participants described three phases of a process in which they received new environmental health information, viewed their perceptions about environmental health, reviewed cultural and social norms, and re-interpreted risk messages. A core category of Re-forming the Risk Message was found to play a major role in how rural low-income families with children perceive risk messages in order to decide on a level of engagement with new environmental information regarding risks in their homes. Results add to understandings of how nurses can assess and intervene to refine effective communication regarding environmental health.