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A Radon Trek Story: Community Health in Colorado

A Radon Trek Story: Community Health in Colorado

We are eager to hear about the successful outreach conducted through the Radon Tee: World Trek 2010! To share your Radon Tee: World Trek 2010 story and inspire others, visit www.radonleaders.org/radontee/share and tell us about your experience. The stories we receive may be featured here in the RadonLeaders.org InFocus.

The following narrative tells the story of classmates Cristine Solomon and Diane Dougherty, nursing students in Aurora, Colorado, who were inspired to educate the public about the potential health risk presented by radon exposure.

Community Health in Colorado

In January 2010 Cristine Solomon, a nursing student at Platt College in Aurora, Colorado, was assigned a class project that required the students to find a health-related problem within a Colorado community and create a program meant to minimize the health issue. Cristine along with her classmate and fellow nursing student, Diane Dougherty, completed a windshield survey for their community, Douglas County, CO, and found it difficult to locate something really “wrong” with the area. When Cristine remembered hearing something about radon in the news a few months earlier, the two decided to research the topic and discovered that it was a much larger health problem than they had anticipated. They were shocked to learn that although radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer behind smoking, and even though 52 out of the 64 counties in Colorado were in a Zone 1 area for radon, including Douglas County, few people in these communities knew the significance of this categorization. Cristine and Diane, as nursing students, also did not have much knowledge of the subject, nor did the family doctor that Cristine was working for. This motivated the classmates to research more about how elevated radon levels affect Colorado residents. The pair hoped to educate the public not only as health care providers, but also as community members themselves. Learning about radon induced lung cancer became more than just a class project for the two students, it became something that they felt obligated to pass on to the general public. Thus, Cristine Solomon and Diane Dougherty began their Community Health project on radon in Douglas County, CO.

The two chose complete their project by educating fellow nursing students at Platt College on radon-induced lung cancer. After their community health class was over the students received a call from Chrys Kelley, their radon contact at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. She told Cristine and Diane to contact Faye Duggan, in Castle Rock, who was setting up a walk in honor of her husband who passed away with lung cancer due to the synergistic effects of radon and cigarette smoking. The nursing students realized that Faye Duggan was the same woman they had quoted in their PowerPoint presentations for class, and they had told her story to nursing students all quarter.

Cristine and Diane’s determination to educate their community was once again ignited. Instead of ending their project with the conclusion of the class, the pair asked their leadership instructor and clinical placement coordinator if they could continue working with radon awareness for that class. Once they were approved, they began working with Faye Duggan to set up a Radon Tee walk in Castle Rock, CO. Over the next several months they attended the USEPA’s Region 8 Stakeholders meeting on radon, passed out EPA publications and educated members of the community at the Channel 9 News Health Fair in Aurora, CO, and educated friends, family and neighbors about radon. They mainly educated through word-of-mouth and by handing out information, such as the Citizen’s Guide to Radon, along with coupons for test kits. In their final radon-related project, they did a basic research proposal on how to better educate the public about radon. They spoke with the Douglas County Health Department and proposed sending out standardized radon information such as the Citizen’s Guide to Radon, test coupons, and an information letter explaining the risk factors to community members via their homeowners association’s newsletters (electronic and postal). This way, community members would be more likely to test and mitigate their homes. Utilizing free access to homeowners via email newsletters would cut down on costs of mailing out information to county residents within a Zone 1 area, and increase the amount of information that actually reaches people.

Through this small class project, Cristine Solomon and Diane Dougherty have cleared up misconceptions about radon in many Colorado communities. The pair has spoken to hundreds of people across the state and continues to do so every chance they get, thanks to the help of the Platt College faculty, Faye Duggan, and many other supporters.

User photo for: Rebecca Reindel

Nice job!

User photo for: Gloria Linnertz

Thank you so very much Cristine Solomon and Diane Dougherty for making the voice of Cancer Survivors Against Radon louder and louder. You are true Radon Leaders Saving LIves. Thanks so much also to Faye Dugan and her son Sean for their dedication to making the lives of residents in CO safer by sharing their message that radon gas is a silent killer but it can be prevented.

Hats off to all of you and keep up the excellent work!