3 years ago

Information sources, awareness and preventive health behaviors in a population at risk of Arsenic exposure: The role of gender and social networks

Renata Távora, Frédéric Mertens, Eduardo Yoshio Nakano, Zuleica Carmen Castilhos
The population of Paracatu is at risk of Arsenic (As) exposure associated with long-term exploration of the largest open pit gold mine in Brazil. As part of the interdisciplinary research “The Paracatu project: Arsenic environmental contamination and human health risks assessment in Paracatu-MG”, carried out between 2011 and 2013, we used data disaggregated by gender to identify the sources of As-related information being accessed by inhabitants of Paracatu and to examine if access to these sources was correlated to awareness of As health effects and adoption of behaviors to reduce risk of As exposure. Semi-structured, face-to-face interviews were carried out with 460 participants (294 women and 166 men) to collect data on respondent’s socio-demographic characteristics, use of mass media and social communication networks as sources of information on As issues, the trustworthiness of these information sources, awareness of As health effects, and adoption of behaviors to reduce As exposure. For both men and women, interpersonal communication was used and trusted more frequently than mass media to obtain information on As. Discussion of As issues occurred preferentially among individuals of the same gender and was associated with awareness of As health risks. There are marked differences in variables correlated with the adoption of behaviors to reduce the risk of As exposure between men and women. Discussing As issues with women was associated with adoption of risk-reduction practices for both genders. In contrast, men who discuss As issues with other men were less likely to adopt As exposure prevention behaviors. Finally, adoption was associated with awareness of As health effects for women, but this was not the case for men. Policy implications for decision makers, practitioners and researchers are discussed, based on concrete examples of how gender-specific approaches can effectively guide the formulation and implementation of health promotion campaigns and programs.

Publisher URL: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0186130

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