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Factors influencing individual attitudes toward environmental health communications

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  • The likelihood of achieving an effective environmental health communications program increases with a knowledge of the target audience's attitudes toward their environmental health concerns, source credibility, preferred channels of communication, and desire to participate in environmental issues. With this in mind, the purpose of this study was threefold: 1) to examine selected personal and social variables that influence attitudes towards environmental health communications; 2) to explore differences in those attitudes between groups that share a common environmental hazard within a defined geographic region; and, 3) to develop a communication needs assessment tool that other public health agencies might be able to use. A stratified random telephone sampling of 407 households was conducted in Idaho's Coeur d'Alene River Basin. Nonparametric statistical methods, Mann-Whitney U and Kruskal-Wallis one-way analysis of ranks, were utilized for the data analysis. The results, showed significant differences in the environmental concerns between the residents of Couer d'Alene and residents of the Silver Valley. Respondents in Coeur d'Alene were more concerned with air pollution, while respondents in the Silver Valley were more concerned with the effects of mining. Secondly, the state government was less negatively received as a source of environmental information than were the local or federal governments. In addition, respondents earning between $50,000 and $75,000 a year have the highest amount of trust in information coming from the federal government. Both TV news and local newspaper were the preferred channels of communication for the majority of respondents in the region. Qualitative data revealed that media sources from Spokane, Washington were a dominant influence in the region. Respondents with a college degree were less likely than respondents from other educational levels to prefer TV news as a source of environmental information. They were, however, more likely to participate in a public meeting than were respondents from other educational levels. Finally, research findings suggest that women, and respondents earning less than $10,000 per year, feel less control over their environmental health than do men and respondents from higher income levels. They are also less likely than either men or respondents earning more than $10,000 per year to feel that a citizen's efforts to protect the environment are usually effective.
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