Under the leadership of Center Deputy Director and Director Research, David Abramson, MPH, PhD, NCDP has been an enduring presence on the Gulf Coast since 2005 when Hurricanes Katrina and Rita occurred (see Research for a description of NCDP’s regional research projects). Through a steady stream of broadly-disseminated white papers, news releases, media briefings and testimony—often in conjunction with local and regional leaders and organizations the Center has consistently used Gulf Coast research findings to concentrate the attention of national, state and local policymakers on the enormity of continuing recovery challenges.
When new perils—the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill and long-term sea level rise resulting from climate change—challenged the region, NCDP broadened not only the scope of its research, but also its advocacy for the current and potential future victims. In 2010, NCDP, Columbia University’s Earth Institute, and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu co-hosted an international conference addressing the implications of climate change for the Gulf Coast. NCDP contributed a white paper to promote discussion of the potential regional public health consequences of sea level rise, more intense storms, and shifting infectious disease vectors.
At the height of the 2010 oil spill, Dr. Abramson’s teams conducted fact-finding town meetings and focus groups about the human health effects of the crisis in coastal Louisiana and Mississippi, and made graphic presentations on that subject to an Institute of Medicine national workshop. One day before BP definitively capped the Macondo Well and ended the spillage of five million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico, NCDP released the findings of the first national phone survey of the oil spill’s harmful impacts on children’s physical and mental health. Within days Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu cited those findings in a formal written request to BP to fund mental health services in the affected states, and in less than two weeks, BP committed $52 million for that purpose.
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