Because we are mobile, Children's Health Fund has the flexibility to go into rural and urban communities, as well as disaster and public health situations – anywhere that care is needed the most. And, we are fortunate to have the expertise of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University (NCDP) to help us document and assess the impact of major disasters on children and the communities they live in.
Within weeks after the BP Oil spill, CHF and NCDP worked with the Marist Institute for Public Opinion to survey 1,200 adults living within miles of the Gulf Coast after the capping of the Deepwater Horizon well. Over a third of parents surveyed said their children have experienced physical symptoms or mental health distress as a consequence of the oil spill. In response to the survey and on-the-ground assessments, CHF immediately added a mobile clinic to its New Orleans Program (affiliated with Tulane University) and is now serving the oil disaster-affected families in Plaquemines Parish.
At the one year anniversary of BP Oil Spill children seeking our medical and community subcontracted mental services showed a disproportionate number of health problems and elevated scores on a standardized mental health screen. Our findings highlight the need for broader community assessment and are consistent with a USA Today report released on the anniversary of the BP Oil Spill: one-fifth of Gulf Coast Residents surveyed qualified as being under severe stress, and one-fourth were in moderate stress. The critical impact of parental stress on children especially low-income children is a major threat to the welfare of the developing child. CHF is committed to mobilizing vital health resources.
Since 1992 and the devastation of Hurricane Andrew, Children's Health Fund has activitated a crisis response plan to help provide urgently needed medical assistance to the victims of the disaster. We initiated this plan again after the terror attacks of 9/11 providing support at ground zero in New York City.
This experience prepared us to respond to the urgent public health needs of the Gulf Coast in 2005, that resulted from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Three permanent Children's Health Fund programs, in New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Mississipp Gulf Coast, were launched and continue to provide health and mental health care to children and families living in the Gulf Coast region today.