Cultural influences of environmental appraisals among first-time mothers
Gulf Coast communities face many environmental threats that disproportionately impact the health of pregnant women. While the perception of risk strategies often differ across cultural groups, little is known about the detail of these differences. The purpose of this study was to explore the cultural knowledge of environmental threats within an at-risk group (low-income, first-time mothers in Southeast Louisiana). This proposal was a part of a SAMHSA-supplemental-funded study, which was an extension of a National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded U19 consortium called the Transdisciplinary Research Consortium for Gulf Resilience on Women’s Health (GROWH). In the first of a two-phase ethnographic approach, interviews with mothers helped identify risk in the environment, important steps to manage these threats, and trustworthy sources to turn to for help. Next, a larger sample (n=112) of mothers indicated their level of agreement to these items. These ratings were analyzed through cultural consensus analysis which gave a quantitative estimate of cultural sharing and beliefs. Results revealed that mothers shared a common pattern of risk perception and behavior regarding the assessment of different environmental threats. Further analyses detailed these cultural models, and identified if cultural knowledge was associated with key socio-demographic factors. Additionally, subtle areas of intra-cultural variation within the general consensus showed that some mothers emphasized health behaviors that may increase household risk. The results of this study contribute to an understanding of how low-income households manage environmental health threats, how cultural knowledge is distributed, and what factors influence knowledge. Study results can help to identify greater awareness of cultural differences within an at-risk population, which can be used to create culturally-tailored risk messaging. Implications for environmental health research, and public health policy are also discussed.