A community-based approach to disseminate health information on the hazards of prenatal mercury exposure in Brooklyn, NY
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- Callejo, F.P. & Geer, L.A. J Community Health (2012) 37: 745. doi:10.1007/s10900-012-9575-7
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Exposure to mercury (Hg) in utero can have neurotoxic effects on the developing fetus. Mercury exposure in women of childbearing age has been associated with frequent fish consumption, coastal proximity, foreign birth, and exposure during ritualistic practices. The aim of this study was to identify culturally-appropriate strategies to disseminate messages on the hazards of in utero Hg exposure in fertile and pregnant women in a predominantly urban immigrant community in Flatbush, Brooklyn, following findings from a recent study on mercury exposure in this community. Nineteen key informant interviews were conducted in Flatbush, Brooklyn with community members, medical professionals, fishmongers, and a religious practitioner to solicit feedback on culturally sensitive methods to educate the community on Hg hazards. The main themes identified include clinical integration, where providers integrate the message in routine care; community integration, whereby influential organizations and community members foster message delivery; media usage; and message reinforcement via continuous exposure. It is vital for healthcare providers and public health practitioners to be culturally sensitive in educating their patients on fish selection during pregnancy and safety of handling Hg. Instead of a single approach, a combination of media and educational strategies would help to reinforce the message. These findings form a basis for public health campaigns to apprise other urban immigrant communities of the hazards of in utero Hg exposure.