Long-Term Impacts and Public Health Response to the Lac-Mégantic Tragedy (Quebec, Canada)

28 Feb 2018 - 4:00pm to 1 Mar 2018 - 5:45pm

SS1085, Sidney Smith Building , 100 St. George St.

School of the Environment, University of Toronto

WED FEB 28, 4:10 p.m., SS1085
MÉLISSA GÉNÉREUX, Public Health Director, Eastern Townships Integrated University Center in Health and
Social Services - Sherbrooke Hospital University Center; Associate Professor, Department of Community Health Sciences,
Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Université de Sherbrooke
Long-Term Impacts and Public Health Response to the Lac-Mégantic Tragedy (Quebec, Canada)

ABSTRACT: On July 6th 2013, a train carrying 72 cars of crude oil derailed in downtown Lac-Mégantic. This disaster caused 47 deaths, the destruction of 44 buildings, the evacuation of a 2000 persons, and an unparalleled oil spill. The presentation aims to describe, and learn from, public health strategies developed to enhance community resilience following the train derailment. Over the first years, the Eastern Townships Public Health Department (PHD) has undertaken several actions, including the monitoring of physical and mental health consequences. Three repeated health surveys were conducted by the PHD and the Université du Québec à Chicoutimi among large and representative samples of adults living in Lac-Mégantic and surrounding areas. The findings showed persistent and widespread mental health needs. At the beginning of 2016, the PHD intensified its work with the community. A multi-sectoral action plan was developed to maintain and adapt psychosocial services to individual and community needs, stay connected with the community, and foster community engagement. The Government announced thereafter substantial investments to foster community resilience, including the creation of a permanent outreach team. Various concrete initiatives arose from the action plan, all of which contribute greatly to empower citizens and mobilize the community. This unique experience led to the identification of vital ingredients that are required for success in recovering from a disaster: 1) fostering the strengths of the community and the value of citizen participation, 2) a strong political commitment to support upstream actions and 3) a public health team able to support these actions.

BRIEF BIO: Dr Mélissa Généreux works as a public health and preventive medicine specialist since 2010. From 2010 to 2013, she worked at the Public Health Departments of Montréal (health surveillance service) and Estrie (environmental health service). In July 2013, Dr. Généreux was appointed Director of Public Health for Eastern Townships region of Québec. As an associate professor at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences of the University of Sherbrooke, Dr. Généreux also participates in several academic activities. She leaded the public health response during and after the Lac Mégantic train derailment tragedy (July 6, 2013) and retrospectively conducted a comprehensive analysis of direct services provided by her team during the first weeks (i.e. emergency response operations) and months/years (i.e. recovery operations). She has shared lessons learned from the public health response during and after the tragedy through several dissemination activities (academic and non-academic). In collaboration with provincial and federal partners, she recently conducted a critical assessment of knowledge management in disaster settings in Canada.