Gulf Coast parents speak: children’s health in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill

This paper examines the physical and mental health of children following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill (DHOS). A multi-stage sampling design was used to select households for inclusion in the study. Data were obtained from parental interviews (n = 720) in the harder-hit areas of Louisiana in the US Gulf Coast. Three out of five parents reported that their child had experienced physical health symptoms and nearly one third reported that their child had mental health issues since the oil spill. Both direct physical exposure and indirect economic exposure were found to be predictors of physical and mental health issues among the children. Our findings contribute to bridge the research gap on the impacts of the direct and indirect exposures of the DHOS on the health of children. The study underscores the importance of understanding the health and recovery trajectories of children and youth exposed to disasters. Knowledge gained from this study together with the emerging literature on the effect of the oil spill disaster on children can contribute towards more evidence-based public health policies and enhance the recovery of children and their families in the aftermath of disasters.