Identifying Issues and Priorities in Reporting Back Environmental Health Data

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Sep 16;17(18):6742. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17186742.


Experts recommend reporting environmental exposure results back to research participants and communities, yet environmental health researchers need further guidance to improve the practice of reporting back. We present the results of a workshop developed to identify pertinent issues and areas for action in reporting back environmental health research results. Thirty-five attendees participated, brainstorming responses to the prompt: "What are some specific issues that are relevant to reporting back research results to individuals or the larger community?", and then grouping responses by similarity and rating their importance. Based on a combined theoretical foundation of grounded theory and qualitative content analysis, we used concept mapping to develop a collective understanding of the issues. Visual maps of the participants' responses were created using nonmetric multidimensional scaling and hierarchical cluster analysis. The resulting concept map provided a spatial depiction of five issue areas: Effective Communication Strategies, Community Knowledge and Concerns, Uncertainty, Empowering Action, and Institutional Review and Oversight (listed from highest to lowest rating). Through these efforts, we disentangled the complex issues affecting how and whether environmental health research results are reported back to participants and communities, by identifying five distinct themes to guide recommendations and action. Engaging community partners in the process of reporting back emerged as a unifying global theme, which could improve how researchers report back research results by understanding community context to develop effective communication methods and address uncertainty, the ability to act, and institutional concerns about beneficence and justice.

Keywords: community engagement; concept mapping; environmental health; research report-back.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Environmental Exposure* / analysis
  • Environmental Health*
  • Grounded Theory
  • Humans
  • Research Personnel