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Title: Developing and testing methods to engage communities in air quality issues : an air pollution case study in London
Author: Varaden, Diana
ISNI:       0000 0004 8505 4867
Awarding Body: King's College London
Current Institution: King's College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2019
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Exposure to air pollution is a public health concern accountable for numerous health problems and tens of thousands of premature deaths each year in the UK. Despite this evidence, public understanding and awareness of the issue is low in comparison to other public health risks. Improved methods for engaging with the public to communicate this risk are required. Participatory research methods have been used in the air pollution field predominantly in unpublished work. However, there is still a lack of systematic empirical evidence on the feasibility of using this approach with diverse members of the community and on the impact that this approach can have on people's views and perceptions of air pollution. Bringing together natural and social science techniques, this interdisciplinary PhD research aims to investigate the feasibility and impact of using participatory research interventions which involve the collection of personalised exposure data, with community groups to raise awareness of air pollution and identify potential solutions. Over 500 individuals, belonging to five community groups in London - including a primary school, a senior citizens group, a Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) patient group, and a parent and baby group - were recruited to take part in participatory research projects. The projects began with the provision of information on air pollution causes and effects. Subsequently, using portable exposure monitors and GPS watches, a subset of individuals from each group measured their own exposure to air pollution in the course of their normal activities. Each participant received a summary of their own findings and the overall results of the project were shared with all members of the community groups. Participants also included a group of activists and politicians who had taken part in similar projects, but on their own accord. Data on the impact of the participation in the projects were collected using observations, surveys and interviews. The study found that participatory methods can be implemented in practice and have the potential to be effective and engaging tools for raising awareness of air pollution as a health risk amongst communities by supplementing information provision with active collection of personalised exposure data. Drawing on theoretical notions of risk, the study found that participants' perceptions of risk were culturally dependant and, therefore, conceptualised in different forms. This study showed that while air pollution is a modern complex risk, it doesn't have to be confined to the realms of scientific experts and that, on contrary, lay people through the gathering of own exposure data can help unveil and address the risk. The findings from this study suggest that by taking an active role in the research process, individuals are inspired to not only reduce their own air pollution exposure but also think about ways in which they could reduce their own contribution to the problem as well as how they could influence other people's practices in order to reduce their exposure and contributions. The findings from this study have the potential to provide policy makers with new engagement and communication methods for delivering more efficient and effective public health interventions.
Supervisor: Barratt, Benjamin Malyon ; McKevitt, Christopher John Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available