When Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005, it clearly brought with it the worst devastation from a natural disaster in our country’s history. It also revealed longstanding problems that continue to afflict many of our nation’s cities and states, especially their poorest communities. As the recovery and rebuilding from Katrina progresses, we have the opportunity to address underlying problems that pre-dated the hurricane and undermine the health and well-being of the nation’s most vulnerable, medically underserved children.
A new study, the first comprehensive face-to-face field survey of residents in FEMA shelters based in Louisiana, conducted in February 2006 by David Abramson PhD, MPH and Richard Garfield RN, DrPH, has documented a series of extremely urgent needs which must be evaluated and addressed as quickly as possible. The study was part of an ongoing needs assessment by Operation Assist, a collaborative effort of the Children’s Health Fund and The National Center for Disaster Preparedness at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. This paper provides a summary of the findings from this study.