Clarendon First and the Vermont Department of Health Collaborate on Community Health Survey

For Immediate Release: October 3, 2003

Contact: Joanna Cummings
Vermont Department of Health
802-657-4256

Jackie Fenner
Clarendon FIRST
802-775-5993

BURLINGTON—The Vermont Department of Health is working closely with the Clarendon FIRST organization to respond to concerns about the incidence of cancer in the Clarendon community.

“We must gather more information about the extent of cancer in the area,” said Vermont Health Commissioner Paul Jarris, MD, MBA. “Cancer is not a single disease. It is a group of more than 100 different and distinct diseases with different causes and triggers.”

Clarendon FIRST has developed and distributed a health survey to Clarendon residents. On October 6 and 7, members will go door – to – door in the community to gather the surveys. The canvass will be held in the morning between 9 a.m. and noon and again in the evening between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.

“With this survey, Clarendon FIRST is taking the initial step of gathering information about the number and types of cancer experienced by community members”, Dr. Jarris added. He is also encouraging residents to sign the Health Department release form. This will allow state epidemiologists to review the survey information, in order to better understand the scope of the problem.

“Clarendon FIRST is working with the State of Vermont to determine who in our community has contracted cancer and how it may have occurred,” said Jackie Fenner, Clarendon FIRST member. “Town-wide participation in filling out these surveys is critically important in developing an understanding of the health issues of our town. So far there has been a great response to the survey, and we want to thank everyone that has participated.”

Middlebury College students will gather completed surveys and assist people in filling them out. The students will be wearing ID badges for identification. Toxics Action Center, an environmental consulting group working with Clarendon First, will tally the survey results.

In March of 2003, the Health Department began working closely with Clarendon FIRST to respond to community concerns about the number and types of cancer in Clarendon. Since then, the state’s involvement has expanded to include the Department of Environmental Conservation, the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, and experts outside of state government.

“Determining if there is a relationship between the types and number of cancer cases in Clarendon is not a simple task,” continued Jarris. “Even after extensive investigation, we may not have conclusive answers in the end.

A panel of experts has been called upon to review all available data, including survey information, to determine if there is a greater than usual incidence of any type of cancer in the Clarendon community. The panel consists of: Clarendon First representatives, Centers for Disease Control, University of Vermont and Castleton State College scientists, Health Department experts in epidemiology and toxicology, Department of Environmental Conservation experts on toxic waste sites and spills.

For more information, you may contact Jackie Fenner of Clarendon First at 775-5993.