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Environmental Factor

October 2011

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NIEHS launches GuLF STUDY media tour

By Eddy Ball
October 2011


As part of the effort to recruit 55,000 people for the massive GuLF STUDY (Gulf Long-term Follow-up Study)( Exit NIEHS, NIEHS conducted the first of four fall media tours Aug. 31-Sept. 1 in southern Alabama. During the visit, NIEHS representatives reached out to residents and potential study participants at seven community meetings, distributed printed materials, and conducted interviews with local reporters for print, radio, and broadcast media, blanketing a shared media market stretching from Pensacola, Fla. to Pascagoula, Miss.

The GuLF STUDY is a health study for workers and volunteers who helped clean up after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster.

Led by NIEHS epidemiologists Dale Sandler, Ph.D., and Richard Kwok, Ph.D., the NIEHS contingent traveled along the shores of Mobile Bay, Ala., with stops in Mobile, Theodore, Irvington, and Bayou La Batre on the Mississippi side of the bay, as well as in Fairhope and Gulf Shores on the Florida side.

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“We are studying a wide range of health problems that concern the community, including both physical and mental health,” Sandler said. “The health problems we are studying range from breathing problems, skin conditions, and high blood pressure, to heart attacks and cancer. We are also studying mental health problems such as depression, stress, and anxiety.”

“We're conducting this comprehensive communications effort to make sure as many people as possible know about the GuLF STUDY and how to join,” explained NIEHS Director of Communications and Public Liaison Christine Flowers.

Communication increases interest

In the course of their 30-hour visit, NIEHS representatives were successful in raising public awareness and interest in the study.

  • The GuLF STUDY telephone research center received 104 calls in the timeframe immediately before, during, and after the tour.
  • Three community meetings prompted 117 people to sign up for the study.
  • Five community leader briefings garnered support from 63 influential grass-roots organizers and local government officials who will serve as community ambassadors for the GuLF STUDY.
  • 50 media placements resulted in more than 1.6 million impressions.
  • 1,800 flyers, 1,000 brochures, and 500 posters were distributed.

The GuLF STUDY has recruited more than 2,800 clean-up workers so far.

Going forward

The GuLF STUDY team has tentatively scheduled the next tour stop in New Orleans for late October, with a similar strategy for informing the public about the GuLF STUDY and related studies by grantees at area universities in the western end of the affected area. Other tours are planned for Mississippi and Florida.

Participants complete a survey over the phone and then get a medical exam that collects blood, urine, and other samples. Participation in the GuLF STUDY is confidential.

Gulf residents interested in learning more about becoming a part of this historic study should call toll free 1-855-NIH-GuLF (1-855-644-4853) or visit the study website at Exit NIEHS Website.

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