Increasing environmental health literacy through contextual learning in communities at risk

Leona F. Davis, Mónica D. Ramirez-Andreotta, Jean E.T. McLain, Aminata Kilungo, Leif Abrell, Sanlyn Buxner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Environmental health literacy (EHL) has recently been defined as the continuum of environmental health knowledge and awareness, skills and self-efficacy, and community action. In this study, an interdisciplinary team of university scientists, partnering with local organizations, developed and facilitated EHL trainings with special focus on rainwater harvesting and water contamination, in four communities with known environmental health stressors in Arizona, USA. These participatory trainings incorporated participants’ prior environmental health risk knowledge and personal experiences to co-create training content. Mixed methods evaluation was conducted via pre-post participant surveys in all four trainings (n = 53). Participants who did not demonstrate baseline environmental science knowledge pre-training demonstrated significant knowledge increase post-training, and participants who demonstrated low self-efficacy (SE) pre-training demonstrated a significant increase in SE post-training. Participants overall demonstrated a significant increase in specific environmental health skills described post-training. The interdisciplinary facilitator-scientist team also reported multiple benefits, including learning local knowledge that informed further research, and building trust relationships with community members for future collaboration. We propose contextual EHL education as a valuable strategy for increasing EHL in environmental health risk communities, and for building academia-community partnerships for environmental health research and action.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2203
JournalInternational journal of environmental research and public health
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 9 2018


  • Contextual learning
  • Environmental health literacy
  • Environmental health risk
  • Environmental justice communities
  • Hazardous waste sites
  • Informal education
  • Program evaluation
  • Rainwater harvesting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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