Impact of Cross-cultural and Literacy Differences Among Gulf Coast Residents on the CHATS Study
*Janelle Lynette Perkins, RTI International
Keywords: Hard-to-reach populations, Literacy, Communication, Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Rita, Longitudinal
Children’s Health after the Storms (CHATS) is an environmental epidemiologic study designed to identify potential short-term and long-term health effects among children who lived in FEMA provided temporary housing units (THUs) deployed in areas affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. CDC is sponsoring CHATS to assess whether an association exists between exposure to THUs and these potential effects, which may include primarily respiratory and dermal acute and chronic health conditions. To accomplish this goal, CHATS obtains the residential and medical history of selected children through interviews, medical records, and in-person physical assessments. In addition, current exposures to contaminants are determined through tests on biospecimens collected from the child, and installing indoor, outdoor, and personal exposure monitors. Because effectual communication with the targeted population is essential to success in survey research, a challenge for CHATS is effectively tailoring the field materials to account for cultural and literacy differences among Gulf Coast residents and sample members. These materials, used to convey in simplified terms the study’s complex concepts and objectives, include letters, brochures, consent forms and scripts, and a website addressing both community and participant concerns. As a result, study items are customized for each type of sample member with sensitivity to differences in their age, educational background, primary language, and emotional connection to the study’s topic.
This presentation will describe the methods CHATS implements to ensure sample members are fully informed of the study’s goals and their expected role as participants. The goal was to communicate this information in a manner that was both IRB approved and non-alarming, and yet still meaningful so as to encourage participation during a time when CHATS was but one of many important ongoing studies in the Gulf Coast area.