The Hurricane Harvey Registry, a joint venture from Rice University, Environmental Defense Fund and health departments in the city of Houston and Harris, Fort Bend and Montgomery counties, calls for residents to lend their voices and provide information about the health impact caused by 2017’s Hurricane Harvey for the first in a series of public reports to be published later this year.
Residents throughout the Harvey-affected region are asked to visit https://harveyregistry.rice.edu/ to take a 10-minute survey providing information about health, housing and environmental exposures by Dec. 21 to be included in this first report. This data will help researchers and public officials identify health trends and develop plans to reduce risk with future storms locally and nationally. The December report will be the Registry’s first public reveal of their collected data, detailing the social and environmental impacts of Harvey. The report’s release will be commemorated with an event at Rice University, with details to be announced at a later date.
“In Harvey’s aftermath, Texans responded with strength, commitment and compassion,” said Rice University Provost Marie Lynn Miranda, the project’s lead investigator. “A year has passed, and we still do not know the long-term impacts on health and housing to our region. Understanding the storm’s full impact is paramount to identifying unmet needs and preparing for future weather events. For change to be comprehensive, we need to bring that same strength, commitment and compassion to bear. We need to engage in a collective effort, from business and faith leaders to NGOs and universities. From Rockport to Dickinson, Houston to Port Arthur, flooded or not, the registry needs to reflect the wide range of experiences felt by residents in the entire Harvey affected region.”
“Houstonians’ strength and resiliency have fueled massive strides toward recovery in the year since Hurricane Harvey’s flooding devastated much of our region,” said Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. “Now, it’s important that every Houstonian and everyone in the Harvey impacted region participate in the Hurricane Harvey Registry. The information from this initiative will help public officials identify disparities to better prepare for future weather events.”
Hurricane Harvey exposed Houstonians to increased air pollution, water pollution and soil contamination, as well as mold inside their homes, among other threats. Individuals in Harvey-affected areas can help the region recover and help residents of other storm-ravaged states by participating in the Hurricane Harvey Registry. Even those not affected by Harvey are asked to take the survey – whether residents were impacted severely, lightly or not at all, their responses will have a profound impact on the lives of many. The Registry’s survey asks questions about people’s health and location before, during and after the storm. Modeled after the World Trade Center Health Registry for people exposed to fire and smoke in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001, the Hurricane Harvey Registry is the first of its kind to collect information about environmental exposures and health effects after a major flooding event.
“We expect this work will inform public health planning in other regions across the nation as the country experiences storms that are more frequent and more powerful as a result of a changing climate,” said Elena Craft, PhD, senior director for climate and health at EDF.
“We need a wide range of information from as many people as possible in order to gain a better understanding of the storm’s physical and mental health impact,” said Stephen Williams, director of the Houston Health Department. “Ultimately, we hope to leverage the Registry to help inform and drive interventions that will have a direct and positive impact on the Houston region.”
More than 2,000 citizens have taken the survey to date. The registry is seeking to ensure a representative sample of what citizens experienced during and after Harvey. The more people who register, the greater impact the project can have. With enough responses, Miranda’s team and the survey’s host, Rice’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research through its Urban Data Platform, will establish a data set that public health officials, policy makers and researchers can draw upon for years to come.
“Our community was severely impacted by Hurricane Harvey,” said Umair A. Shah, MD, MPH, executive director of Harris County Public Health. “Though the roads have been cleared of water and people have returned to work, that doesn’t mean that their lives are not still affected. We need to know the long-term health impacts of the storm so that we can best address their health needs.”