The Gulf Research Program of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation have announced grants totaling $10.8 million in support of efforts to build healthy, resilient Gulf Coast communities.
The grants will fund projects in Louisiana and Alabama focused on enhancing the science and practice of resilience in the region, which is threatened by a variety of environmental stressors stemming from climate change and natural and human disasters, including droughts, hurricanes, sinking coastal areas, and the after-effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The projects are designed to increase understanding of the community attributes that influence resilience and result in new tools and strategies that help communities boost their resilience.
The awards include a grant of $3 million to the University of Georgia for a project that engages Cambodian and Laotian families in coastal Alabama to determine how individual, family, and community-level strengths and vulnerabilities contribute to community health and well-being, and a second grant of more than $2.5 million to the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center – New Orleans in support of a project to improve resilience and mental health outcomes in six vulnerable communities in southern Louisiana. In addition, the Urban Institute will receive nearly $2.27 million to examine housing policy and practices that affect household vulnerability to disasters along with the quality and accessibility of related tools and resources that can be used to reduce those vulnerabilities, while Louisiana State University – Baton Rouge will receive more than $2.9 million in support of a project that takes a multidisciplinary approach to river flood modeling, health and well-being research, and applied community design in the greater Baton Rouge inland-coastal region.
"In creating this opportunity with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, we sought to bring together researchers, practitioners, and community members to work on a less-studied area of community resilience: how various health, social, cultural, and economic factors interact to influence a community’s ability to withstand adverse environmental challenges," said LeighAnne Olsen, director of strategic initiatives for the GRP. "The goal is to identify and develop practical things communities can do to enhance their ability to deal with future challenges."
"We are working with diverse Gulf communities to better understand their capacity to prepare for, withstand, and recover from acute and chronic adversity," said Brian Quinn, associate vice president of research-evaluation-learning at RWJF. "Whether it is vulnerability to environmental disasters or chronic poverty, we know that the confluence of the diverse factors that impact resilience are closely tied to health equity. Ultimately, we hope to uncover what nurtures resilience in our communities, which is essential to building a Culture of Health."