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Reviews on Environmental Health

Editor-in-Chief: Carpenter, David O. / Sly, Peter

Editorial Board: Brugge, Doug / Edwards, John W. / Field, R.William / Garbisu, Carlos / Hales, Simon / Horowitz, Michal / Lawrence, Roderick / Maibach, H.I. / Shaw, Susan / Tao, Shu / Tchounwou, Paul B.

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Volume 29, Issue 4


Unconventional natural gas development and public health: toward a community-informed research agenda

Katrina Smith Korfmacher
  • Corresponding author
  • Department of Environmental Medicine, University of Rochester, 601 Elmwood Ave, Box EHSC Rochester, New York 14642, USA
  • Email
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/ Sarah Elam
  • College of Medicine, Department of Environmental Health, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH, USA
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/ Kathleen M. Gray / Erin Haynes
  • College of Medicine, Department of Environmental Health, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH, USA
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/ Megan Hoert Hughes
Published Online: 2014-09-10 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/reveh-2014-0049


Unconventional natural gas development (UNGD) using high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) has vastly increased the potential for domestic natural gas production in recent years. However, the rapid expansion of UNGD has also raised concerns about its potential impacts on public health. Academics and government agencies are developing research programs to explore these concerns. Community involvement in activities such as planning, conducting, and communicating research is widely recognized as having an important role in promoting environmental health. Historically, however, communities most often engage in research after environmental health concerns have emerged. This community information needs assessment took a prospective approach to integrating community leaders’ knowledge, perceptions, and concerns into the research agenda prior to initiation of local UNGD. We interviewed community leaders about their views on environmental health information needs in three states (New York, North Carolina, and Ohio) prior to widespread UNGD. Interviewees emphasized the cumulative, long-term, and indirect determinants of health, as opposed to specific disease outcomes. Responses focused not only on information needs, but also on communication and transparency with respect to research processes and funding. Interviewees also prioritized investigation of policy approaches to effectively protect human health over the long term. Although universities were most often cited as a credible source of information, interviewees emphasized the need for multiple strategies for disseminating information. By including community leaders’ concerns, insights, and questions from the outset, the research agenda on UNGD is more likely to effectively inform decision making that ultimately protects public health.

Keywords: community participation; environmental health; hydraulic fracturing; research agendas


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About the article

Corresponding author: Katrina Smith Korfmacher, Department of Environmental Medicine, University of Rochester, 601 Elmwood Ave, Box EHSC Rochester, New York 14642, USA, Phone: +(585) 273-4304, E-mail:

Received: 2014-07-17

Accepted: 2014-08-12

Published Online: 2014-09-10

Published in Print: 2014-12-06

Citation Information: Reviews on Environmental Health, Volume 29, Issue 4, Pages 293–306, ISSN (Online) 2191-0308, ISSN (Print) 0048-7554, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/reveh-2014-0049.

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