Considered the largest accident in the history of petroleum industry, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill released 4.1 million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico over a period of 87 days. Years after BP capped the Macondo Well in July 2010, Gulf Coast communities are still grappling with the economic, environmental, and social impacts of this disaster and a slow, torturous recovery.
Moving quickly to track the disaster’s effects on Gulf Coast communities, especially the region’s children, NCDP established the Gulf Coast Population Impact Project (GCPI) within weeks of the explosion on the drilling platform.
A team from NCDP and from the Children’s Health Fund convened town hall meetings and focus groups in Louisiana and Mississippi, where parents shared their deep concerns that the oil spill would have long-term negative health effects on their children. (Phase 1)
Based upon this input, NCDP commissioned a major national survey organization to conduct phone interviews in July 2010 with over 1,200 parents who lived within ten miles of the Gulf Coast. More than 40% of those surveyed indicated that they had been directly exposed to the oil spill. One in every four parents reported that their child had experienced a new physical health problem, and one in five parents reported that their child recently had experienced mental health distress. (Phase 2)
Four-State Study: Phase 3
The initial fact-finding set the stage for a face-to-face survey of parents in the coastal areas of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. NCDP randomly selected households in fifteen communities with high rates of BP compensation claims, both individual and business, and evidence of oil washing up on their shores. From April through August 2012, our interviewers knocked on 6,800 doors and interviewed 1,437 parents or primary caregivers. This study, funded by the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, aimed to:
- Describe more precisely the ways in which the oil spill had affected children and their environment.
- Identify communities with children suffering adverse impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
- Explore the prevalence of physical and mental health effects among these children.
- Conduct a preliminary assessment of the health services available to these children and the potential for targeted interventions or health system enhancements.
- Help affected communities identify solutions.
Based on the field survey, NCDP selected four communities–two in Louisiana, one in Mississippi, and one in Alabama–where parents had reported significant health effects on their children. In October 2012, we conducted key informant interviews in those locations with 150 community leaders, health providers and administrators, school officials, grassroots advocates, service providers, and parents.
In October 2013, the SHOREline Project was launched. The SHOREline Project is a youth empowerment program which aims to create a network of youth who help themselves, their families, their schools, their communities, and youth in other communities recover from disaster.