THE DEVELOPMENT OF A COMMUNITY INFORMED CUMULATIVE STRESSORS AND RESILIENCY INDEX (CSRI) TO EXAMINE ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH DISPARITIES AND DISEASE RISK IN SOUTH CAROLINA
Naney, Kristen Burwell
Wilson, Sacoby M
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Communities with environmental justice (EJ) issues usually have disparities in exposure to chemical and non-chemical stressors and health status compared to other communities without underlying EJ issues. Improving cumulative risk assessment (CRA) screening tools and models can provide the necessary information needed to reduce health disparities and create more resilient communities. To address these gaps in EJ science, this dissertation has three specific aims: 1) Identify perceptions of environmental and resilience factors that may influence health among African-Americans in North Charleston, South Carolina (SC) (Study 1), 2) Develop a Cumulative Stressors and Resiliency Index (CSRI) used to rank risk in SC (Study 2), and 3) Examine associations between CSRI scores and risk of asthma hospitalizations/emergency department (ED) visits in SC (Study 3). Community stakeholders (N=18) participated in key-informant interviews and completed a 26-item paper survey in study one. Interviews were transcribed and coded, while mode, frequencies, and percentages were calculated for each indicator based on its ability to influence health. Statistical tests performed in study two included a Principal Component Analysis (PCA), one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA), and linear regression performed in SAS Enterprise Guide 7.1. Choropleth maps were also developed in ArcMap 10.5. We concluded by calculating descriptive statistics by Environmental Affairs (EA) region, Spearman’s rank-order correlation, one-way ANOVA, and negative binomial regression analyses in study three. Many of the indicators (61%) were rated as extremely high priority items and included environmental hazards, sociodemographic attributes, and factors that may influence resiliency. CSRI scores ranged from 7.4 – 64.0 with a mean score of 29.1. Statistically significant differences in CSRI scores were evident by EA region (p <0.0001) and a one-unit increase in the percentage of non-white populations per census tract projected to increase CSRI scores by roughly 6.1%. The CSRI was not able to predict risk of asthma hospitalizations/ED visits as hypothesized. Overall, we demonstrated that identifying and addressing chemical and non-chemical stressors and resiliency gaps in areas impacted by environmental injustice may lead to overall improvements in community resilience. We anticipate this work will be used as a blueprint to build more resilient and equitable communities in SC.