The collaborative process of this research project provided an opportunity for learning and knowledge-making across institutional and social barriers—young and old, black and white, Ivy League and grassroots organizing. Bridging these different communities and individuals presents 62 obstacles and challenges, as well as institutional resistance.
2002 Urban Fellow
Research Topic: Environment and Public Health
Faculty Advisor: Tong Zheng
The Newhall Health Study: Community-Based Participatory Research in Environmental Health
In the early 1900s an area of wetlands in southern Hamden Connecticut was filled in with industrial and private waste. Today, the Newhall neighborhood and the Hamden Middle School sit atop this old landfill and former wetland. In 2000, the Hamden Middle School conducted routine soil testing for a planned expansion and found high levels of lead, arsenic and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). The health survey on which this thesis is based was a community-based participatory research (CBPR) project conducted in collaboration with the residents. The survey was a self-administered questionnaire of the health of all residents living on or near the landfill. The response rate for the survey was low (123 surveys returned; 19.6%). This paper is a descriptive analysis of the participatory research approach as an alternative to traditional research. Preliminary summary statistics indicate that responders were representative of the demographics of the area; 74% of the individuals filling out the survey were Black-American with an average of 2.7 individuals in the household. The age distribution was very broad within households and the average age of the individual responding for the household was 55 years of age (median 57). The majority of responders reported that they were concerned about pollution in their neighborhood (83%). Forty three percent of respondents (n=83) indicated they eat from Newhall gardens. The discussion describes the challenges and obstacles encountered throughout the research project. In doing so, this paper provides guidance for CBPR.