Environmental Health Challenge: The Flood of 1993

  • Merchant, James A.;
  • Reynolds, Stephen, J.;
  • Sessions, Julie;
  • Olson, G. A.;
  • Walkner, Laurie M.

The Flood of 1993 has been called one of the worst natural disasters in Midwestern history. Unlike normal spring flooding, last summer's record rains raised rivers, backed up the tributaries of those rivers, created new ponds in flat areas, and saturated normally dry farmland. This abnormal weather created an abundance of health and safety risks to farmers and their families. Although numerous resources exist that can and do address problems resulting from flooding, the assistance offered comes from a confusing array of agencies with differing qualification requirements. Agricultural safety and health needs have not been stressed, and have often been overlooked in the flood relief effort.

To address these issues, the Farm Flood Response Workshop: Implications for Agricultural Safety and Health was held at The University of Iowa on November 8 and 9, 1993. This workshop brought together representatives from government agencies, farm associations, agricultural businesses, relief agencies, and academic institutions from across the Midwest and the nation. The goals of the workshop were to: (1)Establish communications and coordination between organizations and agencies involved in flood recovery; (2)Identify existing recovery resources directed toward farm families; (3)Identify gaps in existing information and services, and then develop implementation plans to fill such gaps; (4)Educate agricultural organizations and businesses about flood-related safety and health hazards and resources, and enlist their support in answering specific agricultural needs; and (5)Provide consistent, coordinated information and resources to help flood-affected farm families recover. Workshop activities included technical presentations, a panel discussion, and individual work group sessions. Three work groups "General Safety, Environmental Health, and Stress/Mental Health" met with the objectives of delineating anticipated health risks and needs, identifying existing resources and gaps in resources, and proposing specific recommendations for on-going follow-up activities. Recommendations were refined through a peer-review process of workshop participants and other selected reviewers, and through the input of focus groups consisting of farm families representing flooded areas. Workshop proceedings and recommendations were disseminated to government, academic, business, and other organizations and individuals responsible for disaster response. Other project outcomes include: convening of a follow-up conference in St. Louis building upon the results of the Iowa Workshop; development of a central electronic listserve to facilitate active communication; development of a resource guide; establishment of a central clearing house for flood information and services; initiation of research efforts aimed at characterizing environmental health hazards and prevention/intervention strategies; and implementation of mental health outreach programs.

This research abstract was extracted from a portion of the proceedings of "Agricultural Safety and Health: Detection, Prevention and Intervention," a conference presented by the Ohio State University and the Ohio Department of Health, sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control/National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

The authors noted above are from: All from CADIREP, Univ. of Iowa, Iowa City, IA, except G. Olson who is at Iowa State Univ. Extension, Mt. Pleasant, IA

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