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APHA Scientific Session and Event Listing

[ Recorded presentation ] Recorded presentation

Rising above the tide: One public health program's response to Hurricane Katrina

DeAnn Gruber, PhD and M. Beth Scalco, MPA, LCSW. Louisiana Office of Public Health, HIV/AIDS Program, 234 Loyola Ave., 5th Fl., New Orleans, LA 70112, 504-568-7474, degruber@dhh.la.gov

Issues: Although experts warned of Hurricane Katrina's potential devastation to New Orleans, no one was prepared for the storm's aftermath and level of destruction. This experience highlighted one public health program's failure to adequately prepare for a disaster; however, it also provided insight on improving policies to effectively respond to challenges following a catastrophic natural disaster. Description: The Louisiana Office of Public Health HIV/AIDS program, located in New Orleans, is responsible for administering services for persons living with HIV/AIDS, implementing HIV prevention interventions, and conducting HIV surveillance activities. When Hurricane Katrina flooded 80% of New Orleans, the program's management team devised and implemented innovative strategies to overcome numerous challenges. Among these were locating and communicating with more than 45 staff persons who had evacuated the city, determining the level of damage to the program's office space, exploring methods to recover crucial data and equipment from the office, and coordinating with Federal and State government and service providers to ensure continuity of services for HIV-positive evacuees. Lessons Learned: As a result of this significant event, the HIV/AIDS Program learned that disaster planning and effective leadership strategies are essential to ensure that critical public health services are maintained during a public health state of emergency. Recommendations: When developing a disaster preparedness plan, recommended critical components include utilizing partners outside of the disaster area to provide various levels of assistance, developing effective communication mechanisms with staff; defining staff roles and expectations; securing confidential data; and disseminating referral information to HIV-infected individuals.

Learning Objectives:

  • At the end of this session, participants will be able to

    Keywords: Disasters, Planning

    Presenting author's disclosure statement:

    Any relevant financial relationships? No

    [ Recorded presentation ] Recorded presentation

    Quality Improvement in Public Health: Opportunities and Challenges

    The 134th Annual Meeting & Exposition (November 4-8, 2006) of APHA