Assessing the Health, Social, and Economic Wellbeing of Gulf Coastal Communities

The Health subteam began its work by conducting a systematic review of published health effects of oil spills and created a dynamic, searchable database of relevant literature. The database provides a clearinghouse for practitioners and researchers searching for relevant papers and reports on oil spill-health impacts. Of the 75 papers reviewed, 38 were published during or after 2010 and related to the DWH oil spill. To learn more, view CRGC’s Overview of the Health Literature Search and Database. To download the searchable database, please visit CRGC’s Resources Page.

What Were Our Findings?

A worker cleans up oily waste on Elmer's Island, just west of Grand Isle, La., May 21, 2010. Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Patrick Kelley/Flickr

Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Patrick Kelley/FlickrA worker cleans up oily waste on Elmer’s Island, just west of Grand Isle, Louisiana

  • Medium and Long-Term Effects Need Analysis: Research teams, collecting data less than a year after the DWH oil spill, published in 21 papers. Many of these studies find initial health and social well-being issues emerging after the oil spill, but continued efforts are needed to determine the medium and long-term effects.
  • Multi-Organizational and Interdisciplinary Approaches are Valued: Many papers indicate that they are part of larger research efforts, which include multiple research institutions and disciplinary perspectives.
  • Vulnerable Populations are Diverse: Researchers have focused on vulnerable populations, including the Vietnamese fishing population, residents seeking mental health treatment, renewable resource communities, women, and children.
  • Knowledge Gaps Still Remain: Since the 2010 DWH oil spill, researchers have addressed recommendations in diverse ways, but some gaps still remain. We identified opportunities for research to inform the development of the Survey of Trauma, Resilience, and Opportunity of Neighborhoods in the Gulf (STRONG).

What is the Current Mental Health and Social Wellbeing of Gulf Coastal Residents?

We administered the STRONG questionnaire to 2,520 respondents via a random digit dial landline and cell phone survey (April-August, 2016) in the 56 coastal counties and parishes in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. The questionnaire included measures of:
    • Health: Physical, Mental, and Behavioral Health; Trauma History; Healthcare Utilization
    • Exposure to the DWH Oil Spill: Clean-Up Activities; Damaged Property; Damaged Commercial Fisheries; Impact to Recreational Activities and/or Diet; Employment in Affected Industries
    • Networked Adaptive Capacities: Social Capital; Community Competence; Information and Communication; Economic Development

Does Wellbeing Vary with Reported Exposure or Impact by County/Parish?

What are our Next Steps?

Data have been cleaned, post-stratification weights have been created to ensure results are representative of the region, and variables with missing values have been imputed. Analyses are currently underway for multiple peer-reviewed papers on:
  • Predictors of mental and behavioral health outcomes, with state-specific estimates.
  • Worry about ongoing impacts as a function of recalled exposure and past victimization.
  • Communication source preferences and trust in media.
  • Impacts of the composition and structure of social networks on resilience. 

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Lead

Andrew Parker, Ph.D.

Senior Behavioral & Social Scientist

RAND Corporation

Andrew Parker

Andrew M. Parker is director of the Center for Decision Making under Uncertainty, a senior behavioral and social scientist at the RAND Corporation, and a member of the Pardee RAND Graduate School faculty. His research applies core concepts in behavioral decision research to the understanding of decisions in complex, real-world situations.

Co-Lead

Lynsay Ayer, Ph.D.

Senior Behavioral & Social Scientist

RAND Corporation

Lynsay Ayer

Lynsay Ayer is a behavioral scientist at the RAND Corporation. Her primary research interests are in the areas of trauma/violence and mental health. She is particularly interested in identifying ways to improve trauma and mental health services for vulnerable and underserved populations.

Fellow

Vanessa Parks

Post-Doctoral Fellow

University of Mississippi

Former Grad Student and Research Assistant

Louisiana State University

Vanessa Parks

Vanessa Parks recently graduated from Louisiana State University and is now a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Missisippi. Her research interests include disaster resilience, health disparities, environmental sociology, and community development. She specializes in interdisciplinary health research, and she has participated in a number of needs assessments in vulnerable communities and several program evaluations related to health and education policies.