Community Assessment for Public Health Emergency Response (CASPER) one year following the Gulf Coast Oil Spill: Alabama and Mississippi, 2011
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Community Assessment for Public Health Emergency Response (CASPER) one year following the Gulf Coast Oil Spill: Alabama and Mississippi, 2011

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  • Alternative Title:
    Prehosp Disaster Med
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    On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon drilling unit exploded off the coast of Louisiana, resulting in 11 deaths and the largest marine petroleum release in history. Previous oil spill disasters have been associated with negative mental health outcomes in affected communities. In response to requests from Mississippi and Alabama, we identified potential mental health issues resulting from this event by implementing a novel use of a Community Assessment for Public Health Emergency Response (CASPER) in the months immediately following the Gulf Coast oil spill. We repeated this assessment one year later to determine long-term mental health needs and changes.


    We used a two-stage cluster sampling method to select a representative sample of 210 households from three separate sampling frames used in 2010, two in Alabama and one in Mississippi. We administered a questionnaire that included standardized behavioral health questions that were adopted from Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). We conducted individual and household weighted cluster analysis and compared BRFSS questions to the most recent (2006 and 2009) state and national BRFSS reports and the 2010 CASPER results.


    Among the sampling frames, 8.8–15.1% of individuals reported depressive symptoms in 2011 compared to 15.4–24.5% of individuals in 2010, with 13.2–20.3%reporting symptoms consistent with an anxiety disorder compared to 21.4–31.5% of individuals in 2010, and 13.2–18.3% reporting 14 or more mentally unhealthy days in the past 30 days compared to 16.3–22.8% of individuals in 2010. Overall, a higher proportion of negative quality of life indicators and social context outcomes were reported as compared to BRFSS surveys, but these proportions were lower than those seen in the 2010 CASPERs. When responses were stratified by self-reported change in income following the oil spill, respondents reporting decreased income following the oil spill were more likely to report poor mental health symptoms compared to respondents reporting no change or an increase in income following the oil spill.


    Although mental health concerns appear to have decreased in 2011 compared to 2010, the proportion of individuals with mental health symptoms is higher in the 2011 assessments than in the 2009 Alabama, Mississippi, and nation-wide BRFSS estimates and higher in populations experiencing decreased income following the oil spill. Together, this suggests that mental health services are still needed in the area, particularly in households who have experienced decreased income as a result of the oil spill.

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