The Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU) is challenged with regards to influencing health behaviours of private well water users. Private well owners are responsible for the testing of their water, and it is recommended by Public Health Ontario to do so three times per year. However, testing rates are either declining or at best, remaining stagnant across Middlesex County. It appears that well owners are unaware of the risks of not testing their drinking water, or if they are, they have become complacent. In short, the health unit is lacking an appropriate knowledge and education dissemination strategy that is suitable and well-adjusted for the target population. The unique characteristics of the target population made this group especially challenging to engage with. Such features are associated with the agriculture industry: seasonal work patterns, limited visits to town, distrust in government, varying education and literacy levels, resilient and “tough” attitudes towards health, remote residential areas, and more. The case introduces the steps taken by the protagonist and his summer student in order to determine the knowledge level of well water testing information, attitudes towards the program, and needs of local community members around this issue. Background information on well water testing services provided by the MLHU and Province of Ontario, history from the Walkerton Tragedy, and importance of well water testing are provided. The reader is left with the challenge of developing strategic ways to engage in knowledge exchange with the community, design and deliver appropriate communication tools, and work with the community to address health behaviour change.
- Think critically about ways to communicate and engage in knowledge exchange with unique and sometimes challenging populations.
- Assess barriers to transferring information and influencing health behaviours amongst rural private well owners.
- Diagnose communication problems and formulate potential solutions to these problems.
Case Study Questions
- Why is communication important in public health?
- Who do we need to consider when developing communication tools and strategies?
- What are outcomes of poor communication?
- Make a list of health communication initiatives you have seen that stand out in your mind. What was exceptionally good or bad about these? (Consider print sources, commercials, social media, billboards, radio, etc.)
- What makes a health communication tool or strategy effective? How will you know it is effective?
private well-water, communication, knowledge dissemination, needs assessment, rural; facilitators, barriers
Pellecchia, A., Sekercioglu, F., Terry, A. (2015).Knowledge Dissemination and Private Well Water Testing in Middlesex County, Ontario. in: Speechley, M., & Terry, A.L. [eds] Western Public Health Casebook 2015. London, ON: Public Health Casebook Publishing.