Assessment of Community Health and Environmental Risk Perceptions in the Neighborhood of Manchester, Houston, TX
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This project explored three main dimensions: to assess if community members can accurately predict areas of poor environmental conditions, to better understand differences in perceived environmental health risks among racial groups, and to assess the impact of time lived in a community with environmental justice issues concerning mental and physical health. Previous research has shown that white males tend to perceive the risks of environmental exposures as being lower than do women and members of minority populations; this is often called the ‘white male effect’. In addition, communities of low socioeconomic status (SES) and racial minority neighborhoods shoulder an unfair burden of exposure to urban pollution related to industrial buildings, waste facilities, and poor infrastructure. A cross-sectional study was conducted and survey data was collected from residents of Manchester, a small neighborhood in Houston, TX. Water sampling was conducted in thirty zones within the neighborhood. Our survey (N=109) utilized questions around perceptions of environmental risk as well as the 12 item Short Form Health Survey version 2 (SF12v2) to assess the general mental and physical health of the community. The community as a whole had reduced physical health scores compared to the national average in the U.S. There was also a correlation between the time residents had lived in the neighborhood and a reduction in their physical health scores, after adjusting for age, race, and gender (coef=-0.27, p-value <0.001). In contrast to previous research, our study showed that non-white individuals perceived a lower environmental health risk compared to their white counterparts. For instance, adjusted for age, non-white respondents perceived the risks of flooding as a potentially harmful exposure to be lower than did white individuals, at a statistically significant level (OR=0.34 95%CI=0.12-0.93 p=0.04). Finally, the water sampling showed elevated levels of heavy metals in the surface water sampling, confirming the concerns of the community collected through neighborhood outreach programs. This project shows some evidence that racial differences in perceived environmental harm are either reduced or reversed when environmental conditions are taken into account. It also suggests that when looking at macro-level conditions in this community, physical health can be negatively impacted simply by the length of time spent in the neighborhood.
surface water sampling
Sansom, Garett Thomas (2016). Assessment of Community Health and Environmental Risk Perceptions in the Neighborhood of Manchester, Houston, TX. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from