Fish consumption and awareness of fish advisories among Burmese refugees: A respondent-driven sampling study in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

He, X., J. Meiman, M. Raymond, A. Schultz, and C. Tomasallo. Fish Consumption and Awareness of Fish Advisories Among Burmese Refugees: A Respondent-Driven Sampling Study in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Vol. 197, Environmental Research, 2021.

DOI: 10.1016/j.envres.2021.110906 PMID: 33722524 BACKGROUND: Since 2000, more than 6000 Burmese refugees were resettled in Wisconsin. The Burmese diet is traditionally rich in fish and fish products, and studies show that Burmese refugees continue to rely on local waterbodies for food. Given that Wisconsin has five Areas of Concern (AOC) that are severely affected by pollution, long-term exposure to contaminants in sport-caught fish is a health concern. To better understand fish consumption among Burmese refugees, we conducted a biomonitoring study in Milwaukee. The present study examined Burmese refugees’ fish consumption habits and awareness of fish advisories. METHODS: We used respondent-driven sampling (RDS) methodology to recruit Burmese refugees in Milwaukee. RDS Analysis Tool 7.1 was used to obtain adjusted population estimates for demographic characteristics, fish consumption habits, and awareness of fish advisories. Homophily and equilibrium were investigated to evaluate the effectiveness of RDS in recruitment. RESULTS: Initiated by five active seeds, we recruited 103 respondents to participate in the study. Respondents had a strong preference to recruit those with the same ethnicity (Homophily-score: 0.614 to 0.699) and a relatively weak preference to recruit those with the same sex (Homophily-score: 0.188 to 0.222) to participate in our study. The majority (72.5%) of respondents were women of childbearing age (WCBA). Most (68.5%) had 8th grade or less education. Regarding sportfish consumption per month in the last year, 30.6% reported eating 1-3 meals and 21.2% reported eating more than 3 meals. When asked about purchased fish consumption per month, 26.3% reported eating 1-3 meals. The overwhelming majority were not aware of safe-eating sportfish guidelines for Wisconsin (88.3%) or Milwaukee waterbodies (96.6%). CONCLUSIONS: RDS is an effective methodology to recruit hard-to-reach populations, such as the Burmese surveyed in this study. High percentages of WCBA eating potentially contaminated sportfish meals, low awareness of consumption advisories, and limited economic resources make the Burmese population more likely to be exposed to contaminants. Health education efforts should be focused in this vulnerable population, particularly among Burmese WCBA.

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