CPC Youth Advocate for a Healthier Community
[Photo above: Wendy McKelvey of NYCDOHMH (7th from the left) and Regina Keenan of NYSDOH Center for Environmental Health (4th from the right) with CPC youth after conducting a workshop on fish advisory]
On August 16, 2018, the New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene (NYCDOHMH) published an article in the Journal of Urban Health about a decline in blood mercury levels, most likely due to local and national efforts to promote the consumption of lower mercury fish. Direct outreach conducted by local community based organizations may have contributed to these promising results.
In 2015, CPC engaged in one such effort. In the New York City Health & Nutrition Examination Survey 2004 study, Asian New Yorkers were found to have the highest blood concentrations of lead, cadmium, and mercury levels compared to other racial and ethnic groups. High blood mercury levels are often due to fish consumption. Specifically, foreign born Chinese New Yorkers had higher mercury levels among fish consumers. Asians in NYC may eat more fish as part of their regular diet, as well as eat certain kinds of fish, such as crab, which may be higher in contaminants than other communities.
CPC’s unique approach was to involve youth community members as stewards of a healthy fish message. They engaged in outreach; created a fish consumption survey with questions such as “How often do you eat fish?, “How do you prepare your fish?,” and, “Are you aware there is high chemical concentration in the water?” and surveyed along key waterfront areas. Youth community members also learned about this key community health issue through train-the-trainer workshops and presentations conducted by both the New York City and New York State Departments of Health. They relayed what they learned through Chinese language materials and through presentations and tabling to the community.
Regina Keenan at the Hudson River Fish Advisory Outreach Project of the New York State Department of Health Center for Environmental Health, said, “It was a wonderful experience to work with CPC staff and youth on this project, and we appreciate their informing their peers and their community about healthy fish consumption. They contributed to making New York healthier!”
Shuk King Cheng, Program Supervisor for Education and Career Services who led this project with the Hudson Fish Advisory said, “It was a great learning experience for our community members and myself. Not only was the information we learned from Regina and her colleague insightful, going to community spaces, and speaking with and surveying local community members was interesting and fun. Having the awareness and ability to making smart decisions in choosing and knowing where our fish comes from benefits the health of our community members both physically and as conscious consumers. This Fish Advisory service learning project was definitely impactful to the communities we serve.”
To read the research article, please click here.
Guidance on how to reduce exposure to mercury through fish consumption can be found here:
For more information about CPC’s Youth programs, please click here.