Promoting Healthy Seafood Choices in Asian Communities

Project: Research projectResearch Project


? DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): Environmental pollution in global waterways has resulted in the contamination of fish with methylmercury (MeHg) and other persistent toxicants such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Exposure to MeHg and PCBs via ingestion of contaminated fish can lead to behavioral and cognitive abnormalities, atherosclerosis, and cancer. There is also strong evidence that fish consumption promotes improved neurodevelopment and can prevent mortality from myocardial infarctions and stroke due to omega-3 fatty acids. Asians in the United States have higher Hg levels than other racial/ethnic groups due to frequent fish consumption, but little information is available on specific fish consumption practices that result in this elevated exposure, and even less about risk for exposure to other pollutants such as PCBs. The objective of this proposal is to perform an in-depth characterization of exposure to Hg and PCBs from fish consumption in partnership with community based organizations who serve the Asian population in Chicago, and then to use these results to tailor public health messages to the identified subgroups at risk, thereby decreasing their exposure to those contaminants while maintaining or improving their consumption of healthy nutrients from fish. The top four Southeast and Pacific Rim Asian ethnic communities represented in Chicago, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Filipino, are the focus of this Research to Action proposal. From this community, we will conduct focus groups, collect hair samples for Hg testing and survey data on fish consumption, preferred species and cuts of fish, and preparation techniques. We will purchase fish that are commonly consumed and/or that do not appear on published contaminant lists and test them for Hg and PCBs. We will evaluate the prevalence of Hg intake above 1 µg/gm, equivalent to the EPA reference dose of 0.1 µg/kg/d, by ethnicity, acculturation and demographic factors and health behavior change measures informed by the Theory of Planned Behavior. Our analysis will identify risk factors for elevated hair Hg and intake of Hg and PCBs from fish, and create group- level fish risk profiles that show subgroups of Asians who may be at risk of adverse health effects due to fish consumption. We will then develop health messaging aimed at those subgroups. An intervention of tailored text messaging for women of childbearing age will be tested using a randomized controlled cluster design with hair Hg as the primary outcome. Our community partners will design a public outreach campaign addressing healthful fish consumption, which will be carried out in the final years of the project. We will follow a logic model focused on our community engagement as we progress through the project, and we will conduct on-going process evaluation. This project will develop effective health messaging targeted to Asian communities with high risk of exposure to contaminants from fish. Use of the messaging in individual interventions and through community-wide outreach will potentially lead to decreased exposure to contaminants in fish while maintaining healthful fish consumption and improving the health of the community.
Effective start/end date8/1/154/30/20


  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Medicine(all)