RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC — To better understand the potential health effects among children who lived in temporary housing provided by the government following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, scientists at RTI International plan to monitor a group of children currently ages 2 to 15 who live in the affected region.
The multi-year project, directed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with funding from Federal Emergency Management Agency, aims to assess whether the children who lived in temporary housing units provided by FEMA have health problems not observed among other children from the affected region.
The disaster that resulted when Hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck the Gulf Coast in 2005 created a housing crisis that continues today. While temporary housing units provided immediate shelter for Gulf Coast residents, physicians reported concerns that health problems observed in children might be related to residence in temporary housing units.
Concerns about possible health effects associated with living in the trailers for long periods of time are important to both local and federal officials, since children are known to be more sensitive to environmental contaminants than adults.
RTI's partners in the project include researchers from LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans, the Louisiana Public Health Institute, and Coastal Family Health Center. Other researchers from Columbia University, the University of Southern California, and University of California at Irvine, as well as research firms Aten Solutions, CSBS, and Specimen Solutions, will support the research.
During the first two-year feasibility phase of the study, experts will work closely with those in communities affected by Katrina and Rita to locate and recruit a group of about 500 children for the study. They will seek children who resided in the storm-affected areas at the time of the storms or who were born after the storms and resided in the area. Researchers say this will be a challenge for two reasons.
"Many of those affected have relocated, so even reaching them presents an initial challenge," said Diane Wagener, project leader and senior epidemiologist at RTI International. "During the first phase, we will also assess the willingness of people within this population to participate in this study, which could also present a challenge."
During the second phase of the study, researchers will recruit an additional 1,000 children and periodically visit all the children and their families to interview the parents and monitor the children's respiratory function, dermal irritation, and allergic symptoms.
LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans is a primary partner in this project and will lead local efforts to coordinate community-based mobile medical units and clinical assessments and provide clinical laboratory support to analyze samples and medical records.
Louisiana Public Health Institute, another primary partner, is a nonprofit organization that facilitates health promotion and disease prevention programs with local, state, and regional collaborators. LPHI will facilitate local access to community groups and manage community advisory panels.
The Coastal Family Health Center, which has served many of the families and children in areas affected by Katina and Rita, will lend its excellent reputation for community service and outstanding awareness of local concerns to support, help recruit, and provide services to study participants.
About RTI International
RTI International is one of the world's leading research institutes, dedicated to improving the human condition by turning knowledge into practice. Our staff of more than 2,800 provides research and technical expertise to governments and businesses in more than 40 countries in the areas of health and pharmaceuticals, education and training, surveys and statistics, advanced technology, international development, economic and social policy, energy and the environment, and laboratory and chemistry services.