Title

Water Quality and the Contextual Nature of Occupation

Presenter Information

Amy Marshall

Start Time

16-10-2002 12:00 AM

End Time

18-10-2002 12:00 AM

Abstract

The purpose of this research was to examine the impact that poor water quality has upon occupation. In southeastern Kentucky, much of the groundwater is contaminated by chemical runoff from resource extraction. Disasters such as the accidental release of 250 million gallons of toxic coal slurry into the surrounding watershed in October of 2000 present a constant threat to local residents.

Since water is a crucial component of everyday life, the ability to choose, organize, and perform occupations is drastically altered by these circumstances. Occupation occurs only in context; however, little research within occupational science specifically examines the interplay between occupation and environment. The ability to freely interact with one's surroundings is a critical determinant of health; indeed, occupational deprivation results from lack of engagement (Whiteford, 1997).

Because of the emancipatory potential resulting from collaborative participation in research (Freire, 1970) and the ideological similarities with the occupation-based, client-centered philosophy of occupational science and occupational therapy (Letts, 2003), a participatory action research approach was utilized for this study. It occurred in partnership between a multidisciplinary team of students and professors at Eastern Kentucky University with the citizens of Letcher County, Kentucky. Forty-three in-depth, semi- structured interviews conducted by myself and other members of the research team were transcribed, coded, and analyzed using Ethnograph 5.0 software.

Water quality was a source of constant concern to Letcher County residents. For example, self-care routines were interrupted due to the lack of clean water necessary for personal hygiene; home management demands increased as a result of damage to both household items and clothing from sulfurous water; the duration of meal preparation increased with the use of bottled rather than tap water; outdoor leisure participation was restricted; and opportunities to maintain self- sufficiency through fishing and gardening were limited. One respondent stated, "Everything in my life has changed... from life to death." With the emerging emphasis on occupational justice within occupational science, this study of rural and impoverished Kentuckians dealing with the environmental impact of the coal industry allows us unique insights into the contextual nature of occupation.

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Oct 16th, 12:00 AM Oct 18th, 12:00 AM

Water Quality and the Contextual Nature of Occupation

The purpose of this research was to examine the impact that poor water quality has upon occupation. In southeastern Kentucky, much of the groundwater is contaminated by chemical runoff from resource extraction. Disasters such as the accidental release of 250 million gallons of toxic coal slurry into the surrounding watershed in October of 2000 present a constant threat to local residents.

Since water is a crucial component of everyday life, the ability to choose, organize, and perform occupations is drastically altered by these circumstances. Occupation occurs only in context; however, little research within occupational science specifically examines the interplay between occupation and environment. The ability to freely interact with one's surroundings is a critical determinant of health; indeed, occupational deprivation results from lack of engagement (Whiteford, 1997).

Because of the emancipatory potential resulting from collaborative participation in research (Freire, 1970) and the ideological similarities with the occupation-based, client-centered philosophy of occupational science and occupational therapy (Letts, 2003), a participatory action research approach was utilized for this study. It occurred in partnership between a multidisciplinary team of students and professors at Eastern Kentucky University with the citizens of Letcher County, Kentucky. Forty-three in-depth, semi- structured interviews conducted by myself and other members of the research team were transcribed, coded, and analyzed using Ethnograph 5.0 software.

Water quality was a source of constant concern to Letcher County residents. For example, self-care routines were interrupted due to the lack of clean water necessary for personal hygiene; home management demands increased as a result of damage to both household items and clothing from sulfurous water; the duration of meal preparation increased with the use of bottled rather than tap water; outdoor leisure participation was restricted; and opportunities to maintain self- sufficiency through fishing and gardening were limited. One respondent stated, "Everything in my life has changed... from life to death." With the emerging emphasis on occupational justice within occupational science, this study of rural and impoverished Kentuckians dealing with the environmental impact of the coal industry allows us unique insights into the contextual nature of occupation.