Evaluating Changes in Health and Well-being in Communities Affected by the Deepwater Horizon Disaster
Project Status: This project began in January, 2011 and was completed in January, 2013
We are exploring changes in human health and well-being in relation to changes in environmental condition including those related to the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster of 2010.Federal, state, and academic collaborators have identified indicators that will help us understand the links between the general health and well-being of communities and changing environmental conditions.
Why We Care
Coastal communities are often impacted by disasters both natural and industrial including the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill in 2010. Until now, there has been no comprehensive effort to quantify or track changes in health and well-being in affected communities. This project will develop a set of indicators and a monitoring method that will help us to measure changes in people’s health and well-being when affected by catastrophic changes to ecosystem condition and the ecosystem services provided by the coastal systems, such as loss of fisheries, clean water, and beautiful beaches.
The project will inform efforts on how to alleviate harm from similar disasters and will help local officials prepare and protect communities from harmful impacts and will assist in recovery efforts afterwards.
What We Did
We are developing a method to monitor the relationship between the health and well-being of coastal residents and the health of the adjacent coastal environment. The method uses indicators of human well-being, identified by a group of experts from federal, state and academic programs in addition to those identified as particularly useful in other published well-being indices.
These indicators are:
health (disease rates, infant mortality)
access to food, water, and housing
access to social services (e.g. hospitals, social support services)
Indicators are measured and analyzed using existing data collected by other agencies and organizations.
Our research covers coastal counties directly affected by the DWH oil spill, as well as a selection of unaffected counties for comparison. We are compiling annual data for 2000-2010 for these counties. These will serve as a baseline of well-being for the Gulf coast counties.
We are soliciting guidance from potential users to produce a publicly available, user-friendly database complete with maps and other tools. Web-accessible data will become part of ongoing efforts to monitor coastal communities and their responses to changes in the environment.
By establishing a way to monitor changes in well-being associated with hazardous events, we will be better able to assess the social impacts of environmental disasters such as oil spills and hurricanes and related changes in environmental conditions such as declines in water quality and changes in shorelines.
Related Regions of Study: Gulf of Mexico, Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas
Primary Contacts: Maria Dillard, Theresa Goedeke, Susan Lovelace
Coastal Pollution (Chemical Contaminants)
Related NCCOS Centers: CCMA, HML