This project develops a novel health communication intervention aimed at improving Boston Chinatown residents'access to complex scientific information about this community's exposure to traffic-related air pollution, an important health factor. The proposed work is developmental, aimed at producing and refining the intervention, testing its acceptability in the community and producing preliminary data for a larger trial. Because of limitations in English proficiency and access to computers among Chinatown residents they are likely not learning about air pollution from their media sources. In our intervention, we will develop a map-based computer visualization of particulate pollution across Chinatown. The extension to the software, Weave (, will display estimated pollution levels derived from findings of the Community Assessment of Freeway Exposure and Health (CAFEH;R01 ES015462). Menus on the computer visualizations will be bilingual in Chinese and English. The user will be able to point to locations in Chinatown and an indicator will show levels of ultrafine particulate pollution for that location using styled depictions of greater or lsser density of pollution. Interactive animations will also show lowered pollution exposure when a person closes windows in homes, walks at times and locations with lowered exposure, or installs filtration or air condition devices in homes. We will then co-create with our community partner, a Chinatown service agency, an inter-generational and culturally appropriate method of using the visualization tool to learn about air pollution. At a youth leadership program and in adult English language and computer literacy classes held at the agency, we will first train 12 bilingual high school students to use the visualization tool. Subsequently, these high school students will teach 50 adult Chinese immigrants how to use the tool and engage them in interactive demonstrations and conversations about the pollution and its health effects. The communication intervention is significant because it creates several innovations. The visualization of fine particulate concentrations across a community for presentation to lay people has not been previously attempted. Because particulate traffic related pollution is invisible and odorless, but also toxic, making its dispersion from heavy traffic sources apparent to lay people may be critical to influencing their interest in and response to the problem. We will also develop new interactive animated visualizations informing low-literacy and non-English-proficient residents of Boston Chinatown about environmental health hazards and steps they can take to protect themselves. The method of community-based intergenerational collaborative learning about environmental health through computer visualization is new. To evaluate, first, we will use a pre-post design and key informant interviews to assess the effect of participation in the intervention on knowledge about highway pollution, attention to environmental health information, and subjective numeracy skills. Second, we will adapt validated civic measures to assess increases in self-efficacy of expression of knowledge learned about highway pollution and its health effects.

Public Health Relevance

This is a developmental project to produce a health communication intervention. The goal is to make complex scientific information about exposure of Boston Chinatown to traffic-related air pollution, an important health factor, accessible to the community's residents. We will use a computer program to make invisible air pollution visible on a computer display screen to lay persons with limited English proficiency.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Library of Medicine (NLM)
Exploratory/Developmental Grants (R21)
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Health Disparities and Equity Promotion Study Section (HDEP)
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Vanbiervliet, Alan
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University of Massachusetts Boston
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United States
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Sprague Martinez, Linda; Reisner, Ellin; Campbell, Maria et al. (2017) Participatory Democracy, Community Organizing and the Community Assessment of Freeway Exposure and Health (CAFEH) Partnership. Int J Environ Res Public Health 14:
Cleary, Ekaterina Galkina; Patton, Allison P; Wu, Hsin-Ching et al. (2017) Making Air Pollution Visible: A Tool for Promoting Environmental Health Literacy. JMIR Public Health Surveill 3:e16