Baton Rouge --- Louisiana has received a $1 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to expand capabilities for tracking chronic diseases and environmental exposures. The grant will be paid out in installments over a three-year period and will allow Louisiana and the other areas receiving money to expand disease surveillance systems. 

Louisiana is one of 10 states or cities nationwide to receive the grant this year. The total grants awarded equal $4.2 million in CDC funding and were given to California, Florida, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York State, New York City, Oklahoma and Wisconsin. Thirty-three states and cities applied for grants, but only 10 were selected.  

Louisiana public health officials, working in close collaboration with DEQ, will implement a comprehensive review of cancer statistics from areas that surround 32 creosote hazardous waste sites. Creosote is a wood preserver and disinfectant that is processed in many plants throughout Louisiana.

This data will be compared to groundwater contaminants and drinking water data from the same areas. The goal is to determine whether or not there are links between cancer cases and water contamination. 

“With this grant, Louisiana has a unique opportunity to help our nation launch a national disease surveillance system,” said Department of Health Secretary David W. Hood. “We are honored and privileged to be selected as a participant.” 

Key components of the grant include establishing mechanisms for intra- and inter-agency collaboration and data sharing; developing an environmental health advisory group (that includes technical experts, health and environmental agency personnel, community representatives and academics); and developing and implementing communication strategies to share information with the general public, industry, governmental agencies and legislators. 

Some of the diseases that will be tracked nationwide include various types of cancer, birth defects and Parkinson’s disease. Those three diseases cause seven out of 10 deaths in the United States every year. The CDC hopes data each state or city will collect can be used to start a long-awaited national health tracking system which will help federal health officials track disease patterns and occurrences throughout the country. A system of this kind also could be useful in the event of a chemical or biological attack by pinpointing an area where a disease surge occurred. 

In Louisiana, Department of Health – Office of Public Health employees are combining relevant data from the OPH Environmental Epidemiology section, Department of Environmental Quality, the Louisiana Tumor Registry and the Louisiana Safe Drinking Water Program to use as a demonstration project that will help them develop a statewide environmental health tracking system.