First Nations Boil Water Advisories: New Methods and New Approaches for Risk Communication
Adams, Diane J
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When issuing drinking water advisories (such as boil water advisories, or BWAs) in First Nations, risk communicators must consider the unique historical, political, social and cultural context. A small number of studies have examined risk communication and message mapping in the First Nations context but First Nations drinking water-specific literature is scarce. A community-based participatory research (CBPR) project was conducted with two First Nations and their tribal council in Saskatchewan. The study examined the applicability of risk communication and message mapping in the First Nations context, with the overall goals of improving local risk communication practices and contributing to a First Nations drinking water risk communication framework. Using the Science in a Circle © model, the research partners developed a four-phase CBPR project, rooted in mutual respect for Indigenous and western science worldviews. Through a series of initial community meetings, the research team determined a novel method would be required to investigate boil water advisory communications using culturally appropriate methods. The Participatory Dot-Mapping Method enabled local leaders, experts and everyday community members to participate in all steps of the research process, including data interpretation. Using coloured dots on a map-like response board, participants from each community used coloured dots to note their main concerns, questions and information needs around BWAs. Current and potential BWA communication tactics were also evaluated. Age-coded dot colours showed differences between life stages or age groups. The results suggest effective risk communication must consider factors unique to each community. These include frequency of advisories and preferred methods of communication (e.g. radio, social media, interpersonal communication). Door-to-door flyers and social media alerts were more popular in one community, with youth and/or Elders showing more interest in other electronic alerts (e.g. text, email). Door-to-door flyers and local radio alerts were more popular in the other community. Like non-Indigenous communities, more research is needed to understand how frequency of boil water advisories should inform their communication, and/or what kinds of messages can improve communications of BWAs. Communities should consider health promotion and education activities around BWAs between advisories. Overall, the Science in a Circle © approach and the Participatory Dot-Mapping Method generated actionable local policy knowledge for First Nations and their agencies.
DegreeMaster of Public Health (M.P.H.)
DepartmentSchool of Public Health
SupervisorBharadwaj, Lalita A
CommitteeMartin, Wanda; Elias, Brenda; Griebel, Philip; Ramsden, Vivian
Copyright DateApril 2019
First Nations policy
drinking water management
boil water advisories
community-based participatory research
indigenous research methods
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