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Health and Hydrofracking Needs Assessment

A needs assessment of community information needs related to potential health effects of high volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing in New York, North Carolina, and Ohio

As the debate surrounding hydraulic fracturing for natural gas extraction takes place, some communities have expressed concerns about potential health and environmental risks from air emissions, water pollution, and other impacts. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) has funded a project entitled “Health and hydrofracking: Comparative assessment of community information needs” to better understand these concerns and related information needs. This information needs assessment will be led collaboratively by three Environmental Health Science Centers in New York, North Carolina, and Ohio.

This study will identify community information needs, bring together existing resources to meet these needs, create education and outreach materials, and analyze community concerns for planning future research on the health effects of hydraulic fracturing. The three states in the study have different community, environmental, political, and economic characteristics related to current or potential hydraulic fracturing. Responses from each state will be compared to find the best outreach and education approaches for each state and to translate key lessons learned from one state to another.

The study team will conduct 12 to 15 key informant interviews in each state with selected community groups, health care professionals, and local government officials to obtain diverse perspectives on health concerns and information needs. Interviews will explore concerns about potential health effects of hydraulic fracturing, sources of information about health effects, and what additional research is needed. The interviews will be integrated with the collection of additional data (reports, news articles, observation at community meetings, etc.) to provide the geographic, political, and economic context in each state. Educational materials will be developed to meet identified information needs.

A final product of this project will include recommendations for responding to the public’s need for information on the health effects of hydraulic fracturing. The findings will provide the foundation for a rich community-scientist dialogue on the most important and feasible next steps for research, as well as recommendations for a sustained process for sharing emerging research findings in response to community needs.

This collaborative multi-site study is led by Katrina Smith Korfmacher, PhD, Director of the Community Outreach and Engagement Core (COEC) of the Environmental Health Sciences Center at the University of Rochester; Kathleen Gray, MSPH, COEC Director at the Center for Environmental Health and Susceptibility (CEHS), Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill; and COEC Director Erin Haynes, DrPH, at the Center for Environmental Genetics, University of Cincinnati.

Compiled by the University of Rochester Environmental Health Sciences Center. Last updated October 5, 2012