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Original Research

Off the rails in rural South Carolina: a qualitative study of healthcare provider perspectives on the long-term health impact of the Graniteville train disaster

Submitted: 5 February 2016
Accepted: 25 May 2016
Published: 24 September 2016

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Author(s) : Annang Ingram L, Tinago CB, Estrada R, Wilson S, Wright Sanders L, Bevington T, Carlos B, Cornelius E, Svendsen ER, Ball J.

Lucy Annang IngramChiwoneso TinagoRobin EstradaLouisiana Wright SandersTina BevingtonBethany CarlosEvangeline CorneliusErik SvendsenJulia Ball

Citation: Annang Ingram L, Tinago CB, Estrada R, Wilson S, Wright Sanders L, Bevington T, Carlos B, Cornelius E, Svendsen ER, Ball J.  Off the rails in rural South Carolina: a qualitative study of healthcare provider perspectives on the long-term health impact of the Graniteville train disaster. Rural and Remote Health (Internet) 2016; 16: 3906. Available: http://www.rrh.org.au/articles/subviewnew.asp?ArticleID=3906 (Accessed 21 October 2017)

ABSTRACT

Introduction:  In 2005, a train derailment and subsequent chlorine spill ravaged the rural town of Graniteville in South Carolina, resulting in one of the worst chlorine gas exposures in US. history. Significant health and economic challenges persist in the community more than a decade later. Healthcare providers offered healthcare services to community members in the immediate aftermath of the disaster, and many still live in the community and continue to provide healthcare services. As such, healthcare professionals provide a unique and important perspective to help understand the impact of the disaster on the community’s health. The purpose of this study was to explore healthcare providers’ perspectives about the long-term effects of the disaster on community health, healthcare access, and wellbeing.
Methods:  Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 30 healthcare providers who treated survivors of the Graniteville train disaster. A qualitative, essentialist, inductive thematic analytic approach was used to analyze study data.
Results:  Four themes emerged regarding the disaster’s long-term impact: effects of chlorine exposure on physical health, issues with healthcare access, residual effects of the disaster on personal and community wellbeing, and improving health and community wellbeing.
Conclusions:  Disaster recovery should not be considered solely an acute event; agencies must be prepared for long-term, potentially chronic ailments, particularly in underserved, rural communities. Efforts to address the long-term health needs of communities post-disaster should consider the perspectives of healthcare providers to offer a well-rounded assessment of community needs. Study findings can help inform future disaster response strategies in communities locally and globally.

Key words: disaster, healthcare access, healthcare providers, rural health, USA.

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