Environmental Health, Environmental Justice
Bridging the Gap: Raising Environmental Health Awareness Among Spanish-Speaking Childcare Providers to Reduce Children’s Exposures to Indoor Environmental Contaminants in Child Care Settings
(School of Public Health (UMD) MIEH Master's Student)
Objective: The project objective is to increase the number of children protected against environmental exposures in childcare settings by supporting the expansion of the Eco-Healthy Child Care® (EHCC) training program to Spanish-speaking child care professionals, particularly those in low-income communities. Approach: The Eco-Healthy Child Care® is a national program that develops partnerships with childcare professionals to eliminate environmental health hazards and exposures in childcare facilities. EHCC offers trainings and resources to inform childcare providers of such hazards, and endorses facilities complying with environmental health best practices as “Eco-Healthy”. Increasing program accessibility via culturally appropriate efforts is necessary to continue reducing environmental exposures in childcare facilities that serve monolingual Spanish-speaking populations. We sought to increase environmental health awareness, by enhancing health literacy, reducing language barriers, and promoting children’s environmental health. Our work entailed: providing a linguistic quality assurance review of the EHCC Train-the-Trainer translated curriculum; conducting an endorsed site assessment in Spanish, and developing a webinar for Spanish-speaking childcare providers. Environmental health fact sheets were also generated in Spanish and are undergoing review for cultural competence. Findings: Findings from this work will inform a large intervention study to determine if environmental health awareness reduces contaminant concentrations in childcare facilities and improves children’s respiratory health. Public Health Significance and Conclusion: Over 12 million U.S. children spend a significant portion of their day in childcare facilities. Limited studies indicate that children in these facilities are exposed to elevated levels of harmful environmental pollutants. Due to the increased time children spend in childcare facilities during critical periods of rapid growth and development, their susceptibility to cumulative environmental exposures may be greatly increased. Childcare providers are not usually aware of these hazards nor what low to no cost solutions are available to reduce children’s exposures to environmental toxicants. This lack of environmental health awareness is also prevalent among Latino communities. Latino children represent >24% of the 74 million children under 18 years of age in the U.S. With almost 40 million U.S. Spanish-speaking residents, there is a need to bridge language barriers to ensure that culturally competent environmental health training and resources are available.