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Building Community Resilience with an Air Quality Communication Strategy Aimed at Enhancing Elder Care

hallway in building

The Montrose Translational Health Lab at Boise State University aims to translate basic science into practical clinical and community solutions. Dr. Luke Montrose is an environmental toxicologist with research interests in public health, exposure assessment and chronic illness, particularly as it relates to vulnerable and understudied populations. As an Assistant Professor in the Department of Community and Environmental Health at Boise State University, Dr. Montrose is positioning himself to work collaboratively across the region with relevant stakeholders to enhance community resilience through research on the health effects of wildfire smoke exposure.

The study proposed here titled “Building Community Resilience with an Air Quality Communication Strategy Aimed at Enhancing Elder Care” will improve community resilience by empowering the people responsible for the health of our most vulnerable community members to make timely and informed decisions related to wildfire smoke events. While data indicates that skilled nursing facility administrators perceive wildfire smoke exposure as a hazard to their residents, limited access to actionable data that is specific to their building’s air quality (inside and outside) hinders risk mitigation. Thus, the objectives of this project are to generate a community-driven data communication strategy by surveying Idaho skilled nursing facility administrators, and then to implement and evaluate this communication strategy during a wildfire season by partnering with two Boise-area skilled nursing facilities.

To accomplish these objectives, a dynamic team of interdisciplinary researchers will be assembled including faculty from Boise State University and the University of Montana. Our research team is also very excited to have the opportunity to leverage HCRI resources to help develop and disseminate the data communication tool. As this project cross-cuts all four pillars of the HCRI, these objectives and deliverables fit squarely within the mission and vision of the institute. At the conclusion of this HCRI-funded pilot project, our team will have produced a pilot tested and refined method for delivering semi-real time air quality data to facility administrators that is valuable and actionable. This project deliverable will directly help to make downwind communities more resilient to wildfire smoke exposure.

Our team has a proven track record of success working with the Idaho Health Care Association – the community partner identified for this HCRI award. We will leverage these successes to develop and evaluate the air quality data communication strategy as well as to aid in the dissemination of the findings back to the community. Our multidisciplinary team is also well-equipped to conduct all aspects of this study including exposure assessment, survey development and administration, and data communication. The injection of insights from HCRI leadership will ensure an even more robust final product.

The objectives we have outlined are scoped appropriately to ensure an on-time completion within the 12-month study period and to be on-budget at $5000. Notably, the impact of this project will be doubled given the partnership with the University of Montana and the commitment by the director of the Center for Population Health Research, Curtis Noonan, to match the $5000 award and mirror the study objectives in Western Montana. The development of a sustainable collaboration between the University of Montana and Boise State University will lay a foundation for subsequent NIH funding aimed at building community resilience in the Mountain West.

  • Luke Montrose, Assistant Professor of Public Health and Population Science at Boise State University
  • Sarah Toevs, Professor of Public Health and Population Science at Boise State University
  • Royce Hutson, Professor of Social Work at Boise State University


  • Curtis Noonan, Professor of Epidemiology at the University of Montana
  • Meredith Spivak, epidemiologist for the Center of Excellence in Environmental Health Science at Boise State University
  • Rachel Kessinger, MPH student at Boise State University

Idaho Health Care Association is the community partner for this proposal and our point of contact is the director, Robert Vande Merwe.