Life after Foot and Mouth Disease
Although it has been overshadowed in the news by world events, only two years have passed since the Foot and Mouth outbreak shattered the lives of many people living and working in Britain.
Now, researchers in the Institute for Health Research at Lancaster University who have been working on a research project sponsored by the Department of Health to explore the health and social consequences of foot and mouth disease in Cumbria, one of the areas worst hit by the epidemic, are gearing up to present some of their findings.
The research is centred around a panel of 54 local people including not only farmers, their families and workers in related agricultural occupations but also those in small businesses including tourism, hotel trades and rural businesses, health professionals, vets, voluntary organisations and residents living near disposal sites.
The panel were asked to keep diaries of their experiences over eighteen months, and also took part in interviews and focus groups to capture a range of testimonies about the effects of the disaster and ongoing problems related to it. This panel has provided more than 3,800 diaries describing the disaster and the recovery process. From this, the research team have been able to draw out patterns and themes from the data. Many respondents likened the epidemic to a war or the plague; one said, “I can remember standing at night looking down the valley and it looked like a scene I had seen from Kuwait during the Gulf War with all the pyres burning”.
The findings show how people and communities experienced profound changes in their day to day lives, both during and after the epidemic, but also the way in which they have gone about rebuilding their lives.
Dr Maggie Mort, from the Institute of Health Research at Lancaster University said “We believe that this may be the largest longitudinal diary based body of data that has ever been obtained in a post disaster project like this.”
This month, the team will be holding a series of events to mark the end of the data collection phase of their research, as part of final consultation with respondents.
On 14th October, they will be presenting their findings to the participants of the study and policymakers and practitioners at a conference in Carlisle. On 15th October, Prof Kai Erikson, from Yale University a sociologist of disasters will speak at a university seminar: “Reflections of Disaster and Trauma”, focusing on insights from the study of a range of disasters, ‘natural’, ‘technological’ and ‘human’. The event will be held in the Conference Centre at Lancaster University between 1 and 3pm.