sures; the need for a robust data set to manage the uncertainty and variability around source-to-receptor exposure pathways; and the need to consider focusing on different life stages (e.g., children) and special populations that may be more vulnerable to exposure (e.g., subsistence fishermen and -women).
Farland said that there are opportunities to understand the routes of exposure and to mitigate future exposures based on that understanding. However, because the current situation is so complex, exploiting those opportunities will require a comprehensive, long-term effort.
Howard J. Osofsky, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center
Howard Osofsky addressed several key issues to consider when evaluating mental health surveillance and research methodologies. Disasters have typically limited the ability to conduct longitudinal and cross-sectional research. The reasons for these limitations are obvious: The unpredictability of a disaster makes it difficult to conduct either qualitative or quantitative research on health impacts. During the first days following a disaster, the focus is on control rather than research—in this case, the need to control the oil spill and respond to the basic needs of individuals and families. Disasters also lead to tremendous displacement because, for example, individuals cannot return to their jobs and need to move elsewhere. These realities hamper research, as they make it difficult to follow individuals and families over time.
According to Osofsky, other challenges further limit the ability to conduct valuable research. Researchers must confront difficulties with formulating samples, including differences in age and cultures that researchers will encounter. Cultural sensitivity is important in the Gulf region, where differences in population are pronounced. Researchers will encounter cultural differences, including differences in religion and approaches to well-being and health that must be incorporated into research.
In this region in particular, researchers will also encounter cumulative trauma, meaning trauma that this population has encountered both before and after the oil spill. Osofsky reiterated what early panelists had said about the very strong multigenerational relationship that many of the