CRGC Director, Dr. Melissa Finucane (RAND Corporation), and Co-Principal Investigator, Dr. Keith Nicholls (University of South Alabama), were invited to participate in Preparing for a Rapid Response to Major Offshore Oil Spills: A Workshop on Research Needs to Protect the Health and Well-Being of Communities, a two-day workshop held by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in Washington, D.C. on August 2-3, 2017. The National Academies recently released Proceedings of the Workshop— in Brief, chronicling the presentations and discussions at a workshop.

An ad hoc committee organized the event to convene stakeholders and practitioners from the public, private, and non-profit sectors with expertise across public health research and practice, oil and gas operations and oil spill response, environmental health and surveillance systems, disaster recovery and resilience, disaster research, risk assessment and communication, public policy and practice. The workshop was designed to facilitate cross-sector, transdiciplinary discussions to: (1) explore research needs and other opportunities for improving public health preparedness, response, and protection related to oil spills; (2) consider how to work within and how to complement the existing oil spill response framework to improve the protection of community health and well-being; (3) inform discussions about how the Gulf Research Program and other divisions of the National Academies can support these efforts; and (4) foster connections among public health, oil spill practitioners, disaster research communities, and leaders from communities affected by oil spills.

Several speakers highlighted the interconnected effects of spills on individuals, families, networks, communities, and entire regions during a session surrounding Impacts of Oil Spills on Community Health and Well-Being. Dr. Nicholls contributed to the conversation by illustrating how oil spill stressors are linked to an array of economic, psychological, sociological, and physical impacts. When a person loses his or her job due to an oil spill, he said, impacts can extend beyond income loss to affect health through cascading effects (e.g., fear, sense of loss, stress, anxiety, depression, high blood pressure).

In a session focused on Preparing for the Next Spill, Dr. Finucane provided insight surrounding potential opportunities for broadening the scope of oil spill response. Specifically, she spoke to her applied knowledge and experience during the discussion on Including Communities in Planning and Response Efforts– one of CRGC’s core objectives and an ongoing effort that has been in practice since the consortium’s onset. Dr. Finucane suggested involving communities in the conceptualization of the discussion agenda and development of plans.

Learn more about CRGC’s research and outreach activities that assess and address the social, public health, and economic impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

To find out more about presentations and discussions from the workshop, download Proceedings of the Workshop— in Brief.