UK's East Palestine Health Tracking Study receives NIEHS award to expand ongoing research

Erin Haynes poses in a hallway
UK's East Palestine Health Tracking study, led by UK College of Public Health's Erin Haynes, Dr. P.H., was awarded a two-year NIEHS grant. Jeremy Blackburn | UK Research Communications

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 21, 2024) – As announced by the White House on Feb. 16, the University of Kentucky’s East Palestine Health Tracking Study, under the leadership of Erin Haynes, Dr.P.H., chair of the UK College of Public Health Department of Epidemiology and Environmental Health, received new funding from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS).

The two-year NIEHS grant is projected to provide $418,629 for the ongoing study investigating the aftermath of the February 2023 train derailment and chemical release in East Palestine, Ohio. This additional funding will expand the study’s efforts to track the health of affected residents and engage the community.

“I am so grateful to NIEHS for supporting our ongoing research with and for the East Palestine community,” said Haynes, the Kurt W. Deuschle Professor of Preventive Medicine and Environmental Health. “This funding will support our continued efforts to track experiences and health symptoms of residents and allow us expand enrollment in order to more comprehensively examine the impacts of the train derailment and chemical release in East Palestine.”

The study seeks to comprehensively explore the experiences and health symptoms, including stress of residents in the East Palestine area over time. Since April 2023, Haynes and her team have recruited residents aged 18 or older from Columbiana County and all surrounding counties, including Beaver and Lawrence counties in Pennsylvania, and Hancock County in West Virginia. To date, there are approximately 380 participants and this new funding will allow the team to expand recruitment across the region. 

The NIEHS grant will also help to the team gain insights into how risks related to the derailment were communicated and perceived by residents in order to develop improved public health communication strategies. The project also will establish the East Palestine Researcher Network to create enhanced communication among all funded researchers through this funding mechanism and others, local, state and federal agencies and the local community in order to enable transparency in research study activities and findings. Haynes’ team is committed to developing community-relevant communication tools and data report-back strategies to ensure a clear understanding of research activities and results within the community.

“Because it is possible that those who initially did not experience acute health symptoms may experience health issues later, we strongly encourage everyone, even if they did not experience health symptoms initially, to be part of the University of Kentucky Health Tracking Study," said Haynes. "Participation will allow us to identify long-term health effects and be able to recommend any medical attention to address those health effects.”

Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R21ES036036. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

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