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J Expo Anal Environ Epidemiol. 2000 Nov-Dec;10(6 Pt 2):732-42.

Measuring developmental outcomes of lead exposure in an urban neighborhood: the challenges of community-based research.

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Division of Pediatric Neurology, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis 55455, USA.


The Developmental Research on Attention and Memory Skills (DREAMS) Project measures developmental outcomes of approximately 330 children at risk for lead exposure within an ethnically diverse, inner-city neighborhood. This study is one project of the Phillips Neighborhood Healthy Housing Collaborative, a 6-year-old collaboration between residents of the Phillips community in Minneapolis, university researchers, and representatives of various public and private agencies. Our experience carrying out this research is used to highlight both the benefits of, and the challenges to, measuring exposure outcomes in inner-city children using a community-based research approach. Challenges to working within a community collaborative, to studying an ethnically diverse and economically disadvantaged neighborhood, and to utilizing neighborhood residents as project staff are discussed. The strategies used to address these issues are presented to offer ideas for surmounting the challenges inherent in community-based research. The investigation of community environmental health problems through a community-based research approach can result in improved methodology, enhanced quality of data collected, and increased effectiveness of data dissemination. In addition, it can lead to important findings that inform the scientific community and create positive community changes. It is paramount, however, that potential obstacles be anticipated and planned for, or else be detected early and promptly responded to, in a manner that preserves scientific rigor while respecting community needs and values.

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