The AP takes a look at the reasoning behind Geisinger’s new study of whether or not natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale is impacting public health:
“There’s a real need for reliable information for policymakers,” [Geisinger Director David] Carey said, yet some of the debate on the issue has been more emotion-driven than science-driven.
“Lack of data has not led to a lack of opinion,” Carey noted.
But with state and federal budgets under intense pressure, there hasn’t been much money available for serious medical research. Then over the last year, executives at Geisinger realized they had a big head start.
“We have a very long history of caring for patients in this region,” Carey said, noting the company serves 2.6 million patients and operates hospitals, clinics, and an insurance program in 44 north central and north eastern counties. That means they have vast troves of health care data, concerning everything from cancer to car accidents to asthma attacks.
“We can map the clinical data in both space and in time,” Carey said, meaning they can compare health in areas with gas drilling to similar areas where it isn’t happening.
Carey said the company isn’t presuming anything about the issue, though it is aware of both concerns and the economic value of the shale boom.