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Building capacity to reduce agricultural worker exposure to smoke and heat during wildfires

Principal Investigator: Julie Postma, PhD, BSN

Multiple federal agencies and national foundations recognize the impact that wildfire smoke is having on vulnerable populations such as those with asthma. Our interdisciplinary research team “Urbanova HeaLth and Technology Research Alliance” (UHLTRA) comprises faculty from the Colleges of Nursing, Civic & Environmental Engineering, and Medicine. We collaborate locally with Urbanova, a smart city initiative in Spokane, Wash., nationally with the Environmental Protection Agency, and internally with the WSU Laboratory for Atmospheric Research. Our interdisciplinary research team is currently funded by the National Institute of Nursing Research to promote risk reduction among young adults with asthma during periods of wildfire smoke. We are testing the EPA’s Smoke Sense smartphone application in comparison to a WSU-developed app called “U TRAK” on risk perception, behavior, and asthma-related health outcomes. The target populations of U TRAK are English speakers. However, the EPA is now hosting a Spanish version of Smoke Sense.

This work informs the feasibility and acceptability of risk communication tools to decrease risks associated with wildfire smoke and heat among Spanish-speaking agricultural workers, a broad, vulnerable population. With some preliminary data, results from this project with Spanish-speaking workers from the agricultural sector will contribute to:

  • A submission to the National Institute of Nursing Research (NIH) comparing Smoke Sense (English or Spanish) with the U TRAK smartphone application on risk perception, behavior, and health-related outcomes.
  • A proposal to the National Institute of Occupational Safety & Health Research to study the most effective data visualizations and evidence-based messages to evaluate mobile applications for workers and supervisors. Hyperlocal and accurate exposure data combined with communication tools are likely to provide agricultural supervisors and workers the information needed to support health & safety rules and protect workers.