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Downtown Residents Slow to Respond to 9/11 Health Survey

By Julie Shapiro | December 14, 2011 3:36pm

LOWER MANHATTAN — Downtown residents are trailing other groups in filling out an important 9/11 health survey, city officials said this week.

Just 41 percent of the lower Manhattan residents enrolled in the World Trade Center Health Registry have responded to its most recent survey, compared to 51 percent of the office workers and students enrolled in the registry and 53 percent of the recovery workers and volunteers, the Health Department said.

"The residents are lagging," said Mark Farfel, director of the World Trade Center Health Registry.

"We really are urging everyone to complete the survey as soon as possible," he continued. "We'll get the full picture of the health impacts and [the need] for health services in the future. The sooner, the better."

One reason the residents may be slower in returning the survey is that many speak only Chinese or Spanish, so the city plans to do more bilingual outreach, including door-to-door visits early in 2012, Farfel said.

The World Trade Center Registry has more than 70,000 members, including more than 11,300 people who lived south of Canal Street on Sept. 11, 2001.

Data from the two previous surveys, completed in 2004 and 2007, has informed many of the scientific studies about 9/11 health and helped secure the passage of the $4.3 billion James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, Farfel said.

Previous findings include elevated levels of post-traumatic stress disorder, along with an increase in respiratory and gastrointestinal illnesses among Downtown residents and Ground Zero recovery workers.

The latest World Trade Center Health Registry survey, which launched at the end of June, takes about 20 minutes to fill out and can be done online, on paper or over the phone.

The survey has some new questions this year, based on potential emerging conditions. Those who were exposed to toxins after the attacks will be asked for the first time about memory loss, difficulty concentrating and sleep apnea, and will be screened for depression and anxiety, Farfel said.

On the pediatric survey, given to children exposed after 9/11 who are still under 18, parents will be asked for the first time about their own mental health and quality of life, so that researchers can determine if there is a connection to the child's health.

So far, thousands of registry members have filled out the survey and returned it, but Farfel said the registry still has a long way to go before it gets to the nearly 70-percent response rate achieved in 2007.

The registry will collect responses through March 2012 and likely continue surveying enrollees every few years in the future, to track any emerging conditions.

"Every survey counts," Farfel said.

For more information about the World Trade Center Health Registry's survey, visit the website or call 866-692-9827. To learn about free medical treatment for residents with 9/11-related conditions, call 888-982-4748.