The lingering impact of Hurricane Katrina: Examining the physical health, mental health, and racial equity impacts of disaster response
Keywords:disaster response, Hurricane Katrina, racial inequity, mental health, natural disasters
Purpose: The purpose of the research discussed in this paper is to better understand the negative health outcomes resulting from Hurricane Katrina and the disaster response that followed. This understanding can inform future disaster response.
Design: We conducted 10 in-depth interviews with individuals who lived in New Orleans at the time of Hurricane Katrina. We conducted thematic analysis on the interview content and identified patterns across all 10 interviews.
Findings: Four primary patterns emerged across all interviews. These were: (1) Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) response to the crisis created greater physical and mental health hazards for interviewees; (2) Hurricane Katrina led to long-term mental health issues for interviewees, even those who evacuated before the storm; (3) displacement from homes following the storm typically resulted in overcrowded living conditions, which increased interviewees’ risk of infectious disease; and (4) the discrimination faced by interviewees in the months and years following Hurricane Katrina had a profound and lasting impact on their well-being.
Originality: Numerous studies have been conducted to understand the mental health impacts of disaster and a limited number have looked at the physical health impacts or the threat of infectious disease. This study is unique because it incorporates both mental and physical health impacts, but also examines how disaster response itself plays a role in health outcomes for survivors. Additionally, this paper also incorporates the role of racial inequities in disaster response and how those inequities impact survivor health.
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