Methylmercury Risk and Awareness in American Indian Women
Project Leader: Sandra Kuntz, MSU
Mentor: Anne Camper, MSU
The purpose of this research is to use a community-based participatory approach (CBPR) to investigate the potential and actual exposure to methylmercury in American Indian women of childbearing age on one inland Northwest American Indian reservation. This study will build on work conducted to eveluate fish advisory awareness,fish consumption patterns, and preferred methylmercury risk communication messages of American Indian women by adding mercury biomarker data (through hair sampling) for true methylmercury exposure assessment. By layering nutrition risk survey data with biomarker data, we will be able to directly test the risk/exposure hypothesis for inland based American Indian women. The establishment of research protocols and instrumentation and an improved understanding of risk communication preferences will allow expansion of the project to other American Indian populations potentially at risk for adverse health outcomes form methylmercury. Three specific aims guide the research: 1. Institutionalize an established community-academic partnership using principles of community-based participatory research and the Tribal Participatory Research Model to address environmental health issues. 2. Gather and analyze risk/exposure data. 3. Develop a culturally sensitive risk communication/health literacy intervention model for identifying and addressing preventable environmental health threats in American Indian communities.
Although 100 percent preventable, the potential for fetal/child methylmercury exposure is established as a critical emerging public health issue. Recent national studies indicate rural and tribal childbearing women and their unborn chilren may be the most underrepresented among the long list of disparate populations exposed to methymercury due to the absence of pertinent and culturally appropriate risk messages.