The Deepwater Horizon oil platform exploded on April 20, 2010, with an estimated release of 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, reaching more than 950 miles of the gulf coast shoreline in Florida, Alabama, Louisiana and Texas. As the region moves forward after successful capping ofthe well, critical questions remain about the health impact ofthe oil spill on individuals and communities along the Gulf Coast. In preliminary community-based studies conducted by University of Florida (UF), there was evidence of widespread community disruption and psychosocial problems along the entire coastline, including areas which had minimal or no actual oil intrusion. Our findings emphasize the need for further, ongoing community-based research in this region, looking not only at possible long-term health effects from the oil itself, but also the impact of the spill event on the long-term physical and psychological health of persons living in these communities. To address these concerns, we have formed a consortium of community and academic organizations (the latter including UF, University of West Florida, and University of South Alabama). Work will focus on the Florida and Alabama Gulf Coasts, beginning at Cedar Key, FL, and moving west, providing a gradient of exposure to oil from Deepwater Horizon. Consortium objectives include the following: 1. To monitor the psychological impact of the spill event on individuals across time, and identify predictors of favorable adjustment after environmental trauma (Project 1); 2. To conduct a community-based assessment of social vulnerability and resiliency (Project 2); 3. To evaluate possible sources of ongoing/chronic hydrocarbon exposure, such as seafood (Project 3);and 4. To maintain dialog with the community, and provide key findings related to the above studies back to the community, to assist in the recovery process (Outreach and Dissemination Core).
Work centers around certain key Public Health themes: 1) the idea that the primary impact in technological disasters is often event related, independent of specific direct toxic exposures (in this case, oil);2) the need to understand drivers for individual and community recovery/resiliency, to guide responses in future disaster situations;and 3) the need to address community concerns as a basis for speeding recovery.
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