Mobile daily diaries to characterize stressors and acute health symptoms in an environmental justice neighborhood

Health Place. 2022 Jul:76:102849. doi: 10.1016/j.healthplace.2022.102849. Epub 2022 Jun 30.


Low-income communities and communities of color face multiple, cumulative environmental and social burdens. Methods development in environmental justice research has largely focused on spatial and quantitative approaches. Less attention has been paid to developing methodologies that help collect information on everyday stressors and quality of life experiences for residents in overburdened communities. Mixed methods approaches can be one way to structure study designs that help consider how residents experience environmental and socioeconomic impacts in a localized community context. In neighborhoods burdened by cumulative stressors, traditional cross-sectional epidemiological research designs can also be challenging, as well as limited or narrow in their application. However, repeat sampling of measures within a vulnerable population can approach a quasi-experimental design and help consider variations within residents in a single neighborhood as well as better parse relationships between exposures and outcomes. Through a community-academic partnership with university partners, local community partners, and a local promotores de salud (community health workers) network, we pilot tested a novel mobile daily diary approach in both English and Spanish in an urban, predominantly immigrant community in South Los Angeles as a potential method to collect information on daily stress, environmental quality, and health status/symptoms. We collected resident responses via a once per day 7-day SMS/text messaging survey. We sought to gather granular data on daily resident experiences of air pollution and environmental hazards. Residents reported acute health symptoms and stressors, with repeat measures demonstrating how residents might rank, categorize, or cope with stressors. We find that residents in environmental justice communities record variation in their daily diary responses and document changes in environmental quality, stressors, and odors. Refining this type of method could enable a more rigorous examination of co-occurrences of environmental quality and acute health symptoms. This approach supports the inclusion of residents in the research process and helps more systematically integrate open-ended environmental health relevant data in environmental justice efforts. Used with measured data such as air monitoring or health measures, mixed methods generated data can help support efforts that aim to alleviate sources of daily stress, alongside efforts to reduce overall pollution burdens. Mobile daily diaries can be one way to capture variable responses to environmental quality, acute health symptoms, and stressors.

Keywords: Community based research; Cumulative impacts; Daily diary; Environmental health; Environmental justice; Mixed methods; Mobile; Qualitative data; SMS; Text messaging; stress.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollution*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Environmental Justice
  • Humans
  • Quality of Life*
  • Residence Characteristics