December workshop to address oil spills and public health in Louisiana

The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Mathematics; the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative; and Sea Grant will host Prioritizing Health and Oil Spill Preparedness  on December 4 and 5 at the Houma-Terrebonne Civic Center in Houma, Louisiana. This two-day event is the first in a series of workshops designed to take a community approach to human-related aspects of oil spill preparedness. The workshops, will bring experts and area stakeholders together to discuss public health needs before, during, and after an oil spill.

The event is free and open to those who pre-register in advance. Lunch will be provided.

“Houma was selected in part,” explained Sea Grant oil spill specialist Chris Hale, “because it is an area with thriving communities with ties to natural resource industries, such as fisheries and oil and gas, that have been impacted by multiple natural and man-made disasters in recent years.”

The other workshops in the series Regional priority setting for health, social, and economic disruption from spills will take place around the country as part of a year-long project. Locations include Anchorage, Alaska; Mobile, Alabama; Virginia Beach, Virginia; and Santa Barbara, California. While each workshop will have similar objectives, area leaders will join planning teams to make sure each has its own local flavor. For example, Houma planners have reached out to shrimp and oyster fishery organizations to join the discussions.

“Residents will have the opportunity to contribute to the well-being of their communities as it pertains to public health and oil spills,” said Hale. She added that locals in attendance will be able to assist responders and others in the public health sector in making plans that meet the specific needs of the region. They also will have the chance to discuss new project ideas and identify health resource needs in their communities. . In addition to experts from the response and academic world, Hale said she encourages public health community organizations to attend and share the resources they offer.

“All aspects of human well-being will be addressed in relation to spill preparedness,” said Hale. “This is a great opportunity to be a part of the conversation.”

The Sea Grant oil spill science outreach program that Hale is a part of is dedicated to synthesizing and presenting scientific results related to oil spills around the world. Team members, stationed at colleges around the Gulf of Mexico, share science at free seminars and have produced more than 25 publications that can be downloaded from the team’s online library. Their website,, contains all of their products, plus a sign up form to be alerted when something new comes out.

Featured photo: Members of the LaDIA (Discovery-Integration-Application) Fellows Program tour a seafood processing plant in Dulac, Louisiana. (Louisiana Sea Grant College Program Louisiana State University)