BACKGROUND: As exposure assessment has shifted towards community-engaged research there has been an increasing trend towards reporting results to participants. Reports aim to increase environmental health literacy, but this can be challenging due to the many unknowns regarding chemical exposure and human health effects. This includes when reports encompass a wide-range of chemicals, limited reference or health standards exist for those chemicals, and/or incompatibility of data generated from exposure assessment tools with published reference values (e.g., comparing a wristband concentration to an oral reference dose).
METHODS: Houston Hurricane Harvey Health (Houston-3H) participants wore silicone wristbands that were analyzed for 1,530 organic compounds at two time-points surrounding Hurricane Harvey. Three focus groups were conducted in separate neighborhoods in the Houston metropolitan area to evaluate response to prototype community and individual level report-backs. Participants (n = 31) evaluated prototype drafts using Likert scales and discussion prompts. Focus groups were audio-recorded, and transcripts were analyzed using a qualitative data analysis program for common themes, and quantitative data (ranking, Likert scales) were statistically analyzed.
RESULTS: Four main themes emerged from analysis of the transcripts: (1) views on the report layout; (2) expression of concern over how chemicals might impact their individual or community health; (3) participants emotional response towards the researchers; and (4) participants ability to comprehend and evaluate environmental health information. Evaluation of the report and key concerns differed across the three focus groups. However, there was agreement amongst the focus groups about the desire to obtain personal exposure results despite the uncertainty of what the participant results meant.
CONCLUSIONS: The report-back of research results (RBRR) for community and individual level exposure assessment data should keep the following key principles in mind: materials should be accessible (language level, data visualization options, graph literacy), identify known information vs unknown (e.g., provide context for what exposure assessment data means, acknowledge lack of current health standards or guidelines), recognize and respect community knowledge and history, and set participant expectations for what they can expect from the report.