The NE Gulf coastal population of Florida and Alabama are at risk for significant, but preventable adverse psychological outcomes as a result of exposure to the DWH oil spill event and related stressors. Using a community based participatory research model, our preliminary studies in these coastal regions indicated widespread psychological reactivity during the environmental disaster which was completely independent of the presence or absence of coastal oil. As part of an ongoing collaboration with our community partners, the goals of this population based, prospective, longitudinal cohort study are to 1) monitor the general health and psychological impacts of the disaster on individuals and families with direct (coastal oil) and indirect (no coastal oil) exposure over time;2) identify predictors of favorable outcome (a composite score of general health, psychological status and quality of life) and 3) determine the extent to which being flexible and able to manage emotions facilitates the process of resilience. Using standardized, well validated psychological and family assessment procedures, a base cohort (n=394) and family sub-cohort (n=100) will be followed for four years. For the main hypotheses, data will be analyzed using logistic regression procedures. Findings will allow us to define the prototypical patterns of psychological recovery from oil spill (or similar environmental disasters) for individuals and families. Identification of peak periods of symptom development and attenuation will place public health officials in a better position to anticipate and respond to the needs of the community. Results will also identify the unique skills and capabilities associated with the process of resilience and favorable outcome. It is likely that many of these functions are potentially modifiable and could directly inform public health intervention. Therefore, in year five the findings from this study will be used to develop and evaluate two psycho-educational programs that could readily generalize to other communities. The focus of these programs will be to enhance the skills that could buffer the effects of disaster.

Public Health Relevance

This project has direct relevance to the U19 Consortium application. It is a population based psychological health outcome study of individuals and families of Gulf Coast communities impacted by the DWH oil spill. The project uses a community based participatory research model and studies the characteristics and predictors of favorable outcome (the result of individual and family resilience).

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 (DW))
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University of Florida
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