The decision of whether or not to conduct a health study is based both on scientific and public health considerations. In addition, social and practical considerations should be considered for health studies, as well as alternatives to health studies. All of these considerations can help communities better evaluate the desirability and feasibility of their strategy.
It is difficult to design a study that will show that an environmental exposure has affected the health of a community. Questions that must be answered include:
|scientific strength||can the study be scientifically accurate?how does one define unusually high or increased exposure?how do we know that the health outcome is caused by the exposure, and not by other factors?how will we be able to rule out other possible causes of the health outcome?|
|scientific importance||what is the scientific importance of the study?does it provide new knowledge, allow new laboratory tests or study methods to be evaluated, or confirm or provide additional support for a hypothesis or theory?how helpful will the study be in providing information about how exposure to contaminants is related to health outcome?|
|public health benefit||how much benefit will the additional knowledge have for people's health, either in the community studied or in other communities?how many people are affected, and how significant is the health impact?|
|is there community
support and involvement?
|is the affected population in favor of the activity?are community members involved in the planning and execution of the activity?do community members have a good understanding of the activity?|
|how will the information
from the activity be used?
|will the information be used to further science or change policy?do community members hope that the information will provide evidence in a lawsuit against a polluter?are expectations realistic?|
|will sufficient resources
be available to adequately
fund the effort?
|will funding be sought from a government agency, foundation, elected legislature, or other sources?|
|are federal, state, and local government agencies able to provide technical assistance for the activity?can they participate as stakeholders?|