Perceived Health Effects of Litter and Trash by Inner City Residents

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The Ohio State University

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Residents in inner city, low income neighborhoods identify their neighborhood as unattractive and stressful with violence and trash identified as impacting health. Purpose: This study identified inner city residents’ perceptions of the impact of litter and trash in their neighborhood on health. In particular, the impact on health and residents most vulnerable to the impacts were explored, as were actions to eliminate or control litter and trash. Methods: This qualitative descriptive study was guided by the Integrated Model of Environmental Health. The target population was residents ≥ 18 years, living in an inner city neighborhood. Participants were a convenience sample recruited via fliers and referrals. Data were collected by interviews (n=7), two focus groups (n=17 participants), and go alongs (n=3). Participants were primarily African American, female, and unemployed. Seventy-two percent of participants rented their homes and had been living in the neighborhood for less than five years. Residents received a $50 gift certificate for participation. Results: Litter and trash were described as a pervasive problem in the neighborhood. Respiratory complications, diseases from rodent infestation, injuries, and depression were often cited as health impacts from litter and trash. Older adults, children, and those with preexisting health conditions were viewed as most vulnerable. Residents perceived litter and trash as a stressful problem with no easy solution. Residents also identified risks, such as infection associated with cleaning up litter and trash including used needles and glass. Participants proposed neighborhood cleanups, competitions for the cleanest street, and education as ways to improve the litter and trash situation. Conclusions: Residents of an inner city neighborhood perceived litter and trash as impacting health. Findings from this study can assist school nurses and public health officials with the education of residents regarding the health effects of litter and trash. Additionally, results can be shared with organizations that work within the neighborhood to assist with actions to decrease litter and trash.  



nursing, litter, trash