Emergence and Robustness of a Community Discussion Network on Mercury Contamination and Health in the Brazilian Amazon

Mertens, F., Saint-Charles, J., Lucotte, M., & Mergler, D. (2008). Emergence and robustness of a community discussion network on mercury contamination and health in the Brazilian Amazon. Health Education & Behavior, 35(4), 509 - 521

Information exchanges, debates, and negotiations through community social networks are essential to ensure the sustainability of the development process initiated in participatory research. The authors analyze the structural properties and robustness of a discussion network about mercury issues in a community in the Brazilian Amazon involved in a participatory research aimed at reducing exposure to the pollutant. Most of the villagers are connected in a large network and are separated from other individuals by few intermediaries. The structure of the discussion network displays resilience to the random elimination of villagers but shows vulnerability to the removal of one villager who has been a long-term collaborator of the project. Although the network exhibits a structure likely to favor an efficient flow of information, results show that specific actions should be taken to stimulate the emergence of a pool of opinion leaders and increase the redundancy of discussion channels.

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