Improving well water contaminant awareness among Big Horn County healthcare professionals through community engagement
Schott, Raelene Ursula
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Bighorn County, Montana sits in the Little Bighorn River Valley in the south-central part of the state. The Crow Reservation, a Northern Plains Indian Reservation, encompasses 2.3 million acres in the Little Bighorn River Valley; the majority of the reservation is in Bighorn County. Over 8,000 tribal members live on the reservation, many of whom reside near rivers and streams. Due in part to the rurality of the area, up to 60 percent of the people living on the reservation have home wells as their primary water source. A variety of contaminants has been discovered in well water in Bighorn County, including manganese, uranium, nitrate, and arsenic. Manganese has been shown to cause cognitive delays in children with minimal exposure, along with neurological effects in children and adults alike, known as 'manganism', signified by extrapyramidal dysfunction. Uranium exposure causes kidney damage, increases the risk for various types of cancer, and can have reproductive and developmental effects on women. With minimal exposure, arsenic can cause neurological effects, hypertension, peripheral vascular disease, cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, diabetes mellitus, and malignancies - including skin cancer. Arsenic toxicity includes links to cancer, cardiovascular disease, immune dysfunction, diabetes, and altered neurodevelopment. There are clear public health implications to providing an educational intervention regarding the contaminants to the healthcare providers in Hardin, MT, a community in Big Horn County, in order for them to provide evidence-based information to their patients. This pre/post-quasi-experimental project was designed to evaluate the knowledge gained by healthcare providers in Hardin following a short PowerPoint presentation with voiceover that provided educational information about the common contaminants and their health effects. There were seven healthcare providers who participated in the project. Results of the survey showed an overall improvement in their knowledge about the contaminants, as well as their comfort speaking to patients about these contaminants. These results indicated that the educational intervention provided by the author was successful in meeting the goals of this scholarly project.