, Volume 2, Issue 2, pp 113–126 | Cite as

Network Approach for Analyzing and Promoting Equity in Participatory Ecohealth Research

  • Frédéric MertensEmail author
  • Johanne Saint-Charles
  • Donna Mergler
  • Carlos José Passos
  • Marc Lucotte


Effective involvement and equity in participation between men and women and the various community groups are likely to influence the equity in the sharing of the development outcomes of any participatory research project. The CARUSO project, a participatory research based on the ecosystem approach to human health, showed that the inhabitants from Brasília Legal, a small village located on the river banks of the Tapajós river in the Brazilian Amazon, are exposed to mercury through fish consumption; a subsequent participatory intervention based on dietary changes was effective in reducing mercury exposure of the population. In the present study, we focus on equity in participation and analyze the discussion network about mercury and health to measure individual and group involvement in the community. Participation in the discussion network is associated with the awareness of the critical information necessary to allow the individual to change dietary habits toward the preferential consumption of the less contaminated fish species. Our network analysis shows that gender, age, religion, education, subsistence activities, and spatial distribution of the houses are key elements affecting the involvement of the population in discussions about mercury and health. Based on these results, we propose strategies for integrating the research results and the knowledge of the villagers in a new cycle of participatory research in order to address the lack of involvement of some groups and to promote equitable participation and benefit sharing.

Key words

Amazon community equity mercury participatory research social networks 



We express our deep gratitude to the population of Brasília Legal for their welcome and their participation and collaboration in the accomplishment of this work. We gratefully acknowledge all the researchers who participated in the CARUSO studies from 1994 up to now. The present study would not have taken place without their previous work. For their invaluable conversations and comments about the CARUSO project, we also thank Marcello Bahia, Ana Amelia Peixoto Boischio, Fernando Branches, Robert Davidson, Otávio do Canto, Nicolina Farella, Myriam Fillion, Benoît Frenette, Elisete Gaspar, Jean-Rémy Guimarães, Mélanie Lemire, Silmara Morais, Jean-Paul Piéraut, Hugo Poirier, Stéphanie Premji, Marc Roulet, and Delaine Sampaio. We are also indebted to two anonymous reviewers who significantly contributed to the final version of the manuscript. This work was financially supported by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) of Canada.


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Copyright information

© EcoHealth Journal Consortium 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Frédéric Mertens
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Johanne Saint-Charles
    • 2
    • 3
  • Donna Mergler
    • 2
  • Carlos José Passos
    • 2
  • Marc Lucotte
    • 4
  1. 1.Centro de Desenvolvimento SustentávelUniversidade de BrasíliaBrazil
  2. 2.Centre d’Études des Interactions Biologiques entre la Santé et l’Environnement (CINBIOSE)Université du Québec à MontréalMontréalCanada
  3. 3.Département des CommunicationsUniversité du Québec à MontréalMontréalCanada
  4. 4.GEOTOP, Institut des Sciences de l’EnvironnementUniversité du Québec à MontréalMontréalCanada

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