The parishes examined by this proposal have seen "five disasters in five years" - Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav, Ike, and the DWH disaster. The mental and physical health of women of reproductive age is important not only in itself, but for the health of future generations. Previous studies of environmental disasters largely indicate that although the physical effects of environmental disasters are usually the major source of concern, psychological effects of these disasters can be more significant. Women are vulnerable to post-disaster psychopathology, and pregnant women and mothers may be particularly vulnerable. Women who experience stress during their pregnancy and who have depression or other mental health problems are also at increased risk for adverse pregnancy outcomes like low birthweight (LBW) and preterm birth (PTB). In addition, some environmental contaminants, such as lead and air pollution, have been associated with adverse pregnancy outcomes. While it has been proposed that the effects of social and environmental adversity are likely to be cumulative and perpetuate health disparities, this has been little studied. We propose to compare mental and physical health outcomes in women exposed in varying degrees to the DWH disaster. 250 pregnant and non-pregnant women each, from two affected communities, will be recruited over two years, and will be questioned about their experience of the oil spill. Hurricane Katrina, and other adversities. They will also provide blood samples to determine lead and mercury levels. Air pollution data will be collected from monitoring data. Depression and anxiety levels, as well as reproductive choices, will be examined in these women. An additional 1000 pregnant women will be recruited over four years to allow us to examine the effects of the disasters and environmental exposures on birth outcomes.
Our specific aims are 1) To determine the effect of the DWH disaster on the mental health of women of reproductive age;2) To determine the effect of the DWH disaster on reproductive outcomes (reproductive choices, fertility, LBW, PTB);3) To determine the effect of lifetime social adversity on reproductive outcomes, and 4) To determine how social and environmental adversity interact to affect reproductive outcomes. The proposed research will be innovative in bringing together the research on disaster psychology with stress and pregnancy, examining the role of lifetime social adversities on reproductive outcomes, and examining the interaction between social adversity and environmental contamination.

Public Health Relevance

The intent of this proposal is to address health issues of concern to the residents of the Gulf States affected by the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) disaster and oil spill, focusing on women of reproductive age. We will address the effects of a technological disaster, on mental health, reproductive choices, and birth outcomes in pregnant and non-pregnant women. Our project will address the effects of the social and physical environment in producing adult health.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)
Research Program--Cooperative Agreements (U19)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZES1-LWJ-J)
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Tulane University
New Orleans
United States
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