PROTECT and CRECE Co-Director José Cordero and PROTECT Project 4 Leader Ingrid Padilla were featured in the November 16, 2017, issue of Nature describing Puerto Rico’s struggles to assess the hurricane’s health effects. The article reports on PROTECT’s Post-Maria efforts to study the impact of environmental exposures on birth outcomes in Puerto Rico. As the piece details, these efforts have become extremely challenging as study participants and team members struggle to attain basic human needs for shelter, food, and water; two staff members lost their homes to Maria and are staying with relatives, and many others are still living without water or electricity.

Cordero points out that Maria has forced the team to adjust the course of research– necessitating new attempts to quantify and remedy the hurricane’s impact on issues such as drinking water contamination, stress, and infectious disease that could harm pregnant mothers and their developing babies. Coordination efforts with local Federally Qualified Community Health Centers (CHCs) by PROTECT and CRECE teams members such as Dr. Carmen Milagros Vélez Vega and Dr. Gredia Huerta-Montañez have been key in propelling this work; discussions with collaborators at these CHCs as well as with study participants has identified needs that are of highest priority in the communities of the Centers. The PROTECT and CRECE team on the ground in Puerto Rico has been joining with Master’s students at the University of Puerto Rico, School of Public Health to organize, pack, and distribute donated goods and materials. These materials have come from multiple sources, including through donations that came via the University of Georgia and brought to Puerto Rico by Michael Welton, research fellow in PROTECT and the Zika in Pregnancy Study. If you are interested donating goods towards these efforts, the Administrative Core has set up an Amazon wish list containing identified items of desperate need.

In addition, Cordero and Padilla have been reaching out to study participants to survey and collect samples that could shed light on where the most consequential public health hazards lie. Cordero notes in the article, “The kind of work we’re doing is not because it would be interesting to do . . . It has to be done now because a few years from now, it’s too late.”

In addition to highlighting research efforts, the Nature piece examines various topics including implications of the hurricane on prevention and treatment of the Zika virus and the public health implications of diesel generators running non-stop for months on the island. Click here to read the full article about Cordero’s and Padilla’s work in Puerto Rico following the storm.