Rural caregivers risk perceptions of environmental hazards
Rassi, Rebecca Lynn
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The mounting scientific evidence linking environmental exposures to human health hazards has increased the need for effective environmental risk communication efforts to the public. One key component of providing effective environmental risk communication is risk perception: understanding how individuals and communities perceive environmental health risks. Risk perception research has shown that environmental risk perceptions are affected by social, cultural, and economic factors as well as other concepts such as power, trust, and mass media. Nested in the larger Environmental Risk Reduction through Nursing Intervention Evaluation project (ERRNIE), the purpose of this study was to describe how rural caregivers perceive the severity of environmental health exposures and to determine which environmental exposures were most concerning to rural caregivers. The study was guided by two aspects of the health belief model, perceived susceptibility and perceived severity. Findings indicated that uncontrollable exposures such as exotic infectious disease, water quality concerns, and radon were perceived as most concerning while common controllable exposures were least concerning. These findings were discussed as it applies to current risk perception theory and to risk communication efforts of nurses and nurse practitioners.