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Your Environment. Your Health.

Environmental Health Literacy: The Evolution of a New Field

Partnerships for Environmental Public Health (PEPH)

June 24, 2014

Environmental Health Literacy: The Evolution of a New Field

Environmental health literacy (EHL) is an emerging and evolving concept that bridges shared theories from the fields of risk communication, environmental health science, behavioral science, evaluation, communications, public health, and the social sciences. The process of becoming environmentally health literate entails raising scientific literacy, environmental literacy, and numeracy among the general public while increasing awareness of specific exposures and their potential health effects. For nearly 15 years, NIEHS has supported numerous grant programs to advance the translation and communication of environmental health research findings to increase the understanding of the relationship between environmental exposures and human health and to build the capacity of individuals to act on that information. While NIEHS programs have supported the development of communication strategies, environmental health messages, and informational materials, little has been done to examine their impact or to understand the elements of successful environmental health messages. As a new field, methods to raise EHL are in development; therefore, attention to the evaluation of these approaches and validation of their effectiveness is needed.

In this webinar, we heard from two recognized experts who set the context for EHL by highlighting the relationship between health literacy and improved health outcomes, as well as how other fields contribute to EHL research. They offered lessons learned and recommendations that could be applied to the evolving field of EHL.



Michael Paasche-Orlow, M.D.

Michael Paasche-Orlow, M.D., is an Associate Professor of Medicine at Boston University and focuses on the role of health literacy in health outcomes and disparities. He has worked on health literacy interventions for patients with diabetes mellitus and asthma; has examined the role of health literacy in medication adherence, mental health, informed consent, and end-of-life decision making; and currently is involved in an intervention to promote exercise in the elderly.

Anna Hoover, Ph.D.

Anna Hoover, Ph.D., is a Research Assistant Professor at the University of Kentucky’s College of Public Health, and she also serves as deputy director of two merged programs funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: (1) the National Coordinating Center for Public Health Services and Systems Research and (2) the Public Health Practice-Based Research Networks National Coordinating Center. She designs and implements research projects to elucidate the most effective and efficient means of disseminating and implementing research findings so as to optimize their utility for potential end users and other stakeholders. In addition, she serves as communication liaison for the University of Kentucky’s Superfund Research Program and is Co-Leader of the Program’s Research Translation Core, where she works with stakeholder groups to improve mutual understandings of environmental health issues.

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