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New York Medical College Awarded New Grant to Study Health Impact of Hurricane Sandy

Center for Disease Control (CDC) awards first-of-its kind $561,054 grant to gauge health effects on response workers

Valhalla, N.Y., October 10, 2013 The Center for Disaster Medicine, a division of the Institute for Public Health in the School of Health Sciences and Practice at New York Medical College, has been awarded more than $.5 million to study the impact of mold and other health hazards associated with Hurricane Sandy, which devastated the region one year ago this month.

The $561,054 grant will fund a two-year study of the effects of mold and other environmental hazards on Sandy response workers and homeowners in hard-hit areas and will be carried out with the collaboration of the New York City Health Department.

“This research grant demonstrates the commitment of New York Medical College’s faculty to simultaneously serve the public while generating new knowledge about the causes and prevention of human disease and disability,” said Dr. Edward C. Halperin, Chancellor and CEO of the College. “The public health consequences of natural disasters may, potentially, extend long after the acute event.”

The grant from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) will survey 400 volunteers and homeowners who received safety training from the New York City Department of Health and compare their health status with 400 of their neighbors who did not receive training by the health department. It is part of the $60 billion Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013 for Hurricane Sandy.

“The purpose of this comprehensive study is to better understand the impact of mold and other environmental hazards on individuals who remediated storm affected homes, and better anticipate the health needs of similarly impacted communities in the future,” said Dr. Michael J. Reilly, director of the College’s Center for Disaster Medicine. “This is the single largest research grant the Center has received since its founding in 2005 and is a reflection of the broad expertise of the Center in investigating the health impact of major disasters.”

Dr. Reilly said the 400 homeowners and volunteers who performed remediation work on Sandy-affected homes will be culled from more than 1,000 people who attended one of the 70 training sessions overseen by the New York City Department of Health. At each of the 1-3 hour sessions, participants were shown proper methods of mold remediation and in some cases given respirators to protect them from environmental hazards.

“The idea is to see if there were any differences in the rates of illness and the health effects they collectively experienced,” Dr. Reilly said. “The public perception is that mold was a specific and major problem. We want to try to measure and quantify the effects to help communities better plan and prepare for these kinds of hazards in the future.”

Dr. Reilly was recently named director of the Center for Disaster Medicine, which specializes in applied research, planning and training for many facets of potential disasters, including preparedness for children, the elderly and those with special needs. Dr. Reilly has more than 16 years’ experience in emergency preparedness and is an internationally recognized expert and author.

New York Medical College, a member of the Touro College and University System, offers advanced degrees in medicine, science, public health and the health professions. The leading academic biomedical research institution between New York City and Albany, the university manages more than $34.5 million in research and other sponsored programs, notably in the areas of cardiovascular disease, cancer, kidney disease, the neurosciences and infectious diseases.

The Center for Disaster Medicine works to improve emergency preparedness for disasters, terrorism, and public health emergencies locally, nationally and internationally by serving as a specialized academic research center focused on evidence-based, practically-oriented solutions to contemporary problems in disaster medicine and emergency preparedness, planning and response.


Donna Moriarty, M.P.H. ’04
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