RAND Gulf States Policy Institute Newsletter | Web version

Follow OCR on Twitter
June 2017

RAND Gulf States Policy Institute

From the Director

CRGC's community health workers

CRGC's community health workers, photo by Elizabeth Thornton

Two years ago, we announced the founding of the Consortium for Resilient Gulf Communities (CRGC), a three-year grant from the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI). The Consortium—led by RAND and regional partners from Louisiana State University, Tulane University, the University of South Alabama, and the Louisiana Public Health Institute—is dedicated to assessing and addressing the public health, social, and economic impacts of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico region.

This year, I am pleased to update you on the Consortium's regional impact. The team is dedicated to improving the well-being of people across the Gulf States and to conducting objective, transdisciplinary research and analysis related to the human impacts of the oil spill. This dedication shines through in this issue's Researcher Spotlight interview with Elizabeth Thornton, a policy analyst based out of RAND's New Orleans office and the Consortium's outreach coordinator.

Elizabeth talks about how CRGC's research, outreach, and education activities are helping communities across the Gulf Coast to more effectively understand, withstand, and overcome the multiple stressors brought on by such disasters as the 2010 oil spill. Elizabeth also shares how CRGC is working to provide community members and decisionmakers with solutions for building resilience to future catastrophic oil spills.

As always, we at RAND Gulf States remain committed to conducting and communicating the kind of research that enhances the lives of people in our region.

Please reach out to me with any questions or ideas.

All the best,

Gary Cecchine

Researcher Spotlight

Q&A with RAND Policy Analyst Elizabeth Thornton

Elizabeth Thornton

Below is our discussion with Elizabeth Thornton, who is a policy analyst at RAND. As outreach coordinator for the Consortium for Resilient Gulf Communities (CGRC), Elizabeth talks about outreach efforts and describes how CRGC's work is already helping the Gulf States to improve disaster resilience.

1. What are the goals of the Consortium's outreach programs and tools?

From day one, the primary motivation behind all Consortium outreach efforts has been to produce information and tools via use-inspired, transdiciplinary research. In short, we try to understand the different ways that various audiences consume research findings, and we seek to develop information and tools in such a way that end users will actually use them. Since the start of our work plan, CRGC has integrated stakeholder perspectives, formally and informally, so that our work addresses real-world problems through context-sensitive strategies.

Transdisciplinary research is also an important concept in Consortium outreach efforts. In our case, it means that multiple disciplinary perspectives are included across all CRGC activities. Communities have been challenged by economic, social, and physical effects of the oil spill, and we want to ensure the resources and solutions that we produce address the disaster's effects and assist the diverse stakeholder groups, which continue to feel them.

Our approach supports another outreach goal, which is to engender a rapid uptake of our research findings across diverse sectors and user groups. To achieve this goal, we disseminate our results and customize subsequent tools and resources in modalities best suited for different user groups and their needs. The bottom line is that we want our research output to be usable by various types of community members and decisionmakers; we look at it as connecting science and society to build community resilience.

2. Can you give us an example of an outreach program that is making a difference in Gulf State communities?

Sure—there are quite a few to choose from! CRGC identified multiple opportunities to cultivate and sustain collaborative partnerships with community stakeholders to enhance community resilience and build social capital at various levels. The placement and training of Community Health Workers (CHWs) in communities that were especially exposed to the adverse impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill is a great example of this.

CRGC's partners from the University of South Alabama's Coastal Resource and Resiliency Center (CRRC) led efforts to train and deploy seven CHWs to assist community-based organizations and health clinics in Galliano and Port Sulphur, Louisiana, and Bayou La Batre, Alabama—three communities that were hard hit by the oil spill. The goal is to help these communities enhance disaster preparedness, improve overall health and health care capacity, and support community resilience efforts.

Even seven years after the oil spill, we see that community members continue to feel its profound effects, with ongoing impacts on their physical and mental health and livelihoods. CRGC's CHWs are trusted members of the communities they serve, understanding local norms and needs and "speaking the language" of those they serve. They are trained to promote healthy lifestyles, improve health literacy, and identify and publicize relevant resources. CHWs also serve as intermediaries between community members and diverse stakeholder groups, and their efforts have supported our development of tools and resources that address specific community needs and improve resilience.

Every day, these partners help underserved and disadvantaged community members overcome challenges by connecting them with resources, facilitating greater access to care, providing informal counseling, and more. From May 1, 2016, to May 31, 2017, CHWs documented 5,355 services provided.

3. How are you making sure that Consortium programs have a lasting impact?

CRGC is focused on continuing to release research findings, synthesizing lessons learned about how to support resilience to catastrophic oil spills, and producing derivative tools and resources for various stakeholder groups. One of our objectives here is to develop integrated resilience strategies that can be applied when future disasters occur.

On our website's resources page, there is an easy-to-navigate search function that allows users to explore both CRGC-generated and external resources based on audience, topic, and type. We offer resources tailored for audiences that identify as academics, community leaders, fishing/seafood industry stakeholders, health care providers, and policymakers. The available resources consist of journal articles, working papers, reports, informational overviews, databases, literature reviews, and websites. This page will continue to expand its offerings as new research findings become available and additional tools and resources are developed, so stay tuned!

The RAND Gulf States Policy Institute provides objective analysis to federal, state, and local leaders in support of evidence-based policymaking and the well-being of individuals throughout the U.S. Gulf States region. We invite your suggestions for researchers, projects, centers, and funding or collaboration opportunities to highlight in future issues. Write to director Gary Cecchine at Gary_Cecchine@rand.org.

Follow RAND

Privacy statement

RAND Corporation

RAND Corporation. 1776 Main Street, Santa Monica, CA 90401-3208.
RAND® is a registered trademark.