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Environmental Public Health Impacts of Disasters: Hurricane Katrina - Workshop Summary
refugee organization in San Francisco that had a great deal of culturally sensitive research experience with this population group. The organization’s expertise contributed to the building of a community-based research infrastructure and effective outreach interventions.
Culturally appropriate research and outreach strategies, such as educational methods that focus on the community’s languages, graphics, and teaching methods that incorporate ethnic values and traditions in the research activities, are all very important, noted Quigley. When community members are involved in working with researchers side by side, they develop a commitment to dealing with the community harms that might be found from the research investigation. The community will then take it to the social action level or the policy action level, which is an important feature of community-based research, said Quigley. If the community feels that it can own some of the management of the research problem and it is given funding and training, it will be there to work on the problem in the long term.
According to Quigley, communities can develop multidimensional types of outcomes and benefits from a research effort. They may help not only with identifying ways to reduce exposures, but also with other diet, lifestyle, and recreational areas of community life that can improve health conditions. Community members build the contextual and local community knowledge for determining and assessing exposure pathways; they should therefore have a strong role in interpreting results and designing and implementing interventions, asserted Quigley.
Another important outcome is that involving the community in research can actually improve the scientific research analysis in terms of recruitment and interviewing community members and involving workers, migrants, and transitory groups that scientists cannot reach on their own. Community involvement can improve questionnaires by ensuring cultural and regional relevancy. Community involvement facilitates interview processes, providing culturally appropriate listening skills and engagement with people who are being interviewed (RTI International–University of North Carolina, 2004).
Cultural competence can often be an overlooked aspect of training in the environmental health field, said Quigley. Scientists cannot really move that far ahead with monitoring and technical research without knowing the context of the community in question. Developing bicultural models for research, which take into consideration traditions and values of people involved in the research process, and taking cultural sensitivity courses before researchers even start would be valuable, noted Quigley. At the same time, researchers should be more conscious of their own perceptions and experience and how these may collide with the traditions and values of cultural groups.
Quigley concluded by saying that researchers need to improve their cultural competence and learn more about exchanges of cultural knowledge and values in the research process. Diverse cultural views and community-based knowledge are key understandings that researchers should have.