185499 Staying safe in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina: The Experiences of Young Injection Drug Users

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Jennifer Jackson Bloom, MPH , Division of Research on Children, Youth and Families, Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, Hollywood, CA
Stephen E. Lankenau, PhD , Department of Pediatrics, University of Southern California, Hollywood, CA
Erica Alarcon, MSW , Community Health Sciences Department, Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, New Orleans, LA
Dodi Hathazi, BS , Division of Research on Children, Youth and Families, Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, Hollywood, CA
Bill Sanders, PhD , Department of Pediatrics, University of Southern California, Hollywood, CA
Hurricane Katrina may offer many lessons regarding the impact of a wide-spread urban disaster on high risk populations, yet few studies have explored the effects of the hurricane on young drug users. We investigated health risks and health service utilization among a sample of young injection drug users (IDU) in New Orleans during the post Hurricane Katrina period. During the period of July 2006 April 2007, 34 young IDUs were administered a set of structured and unstructured questions about their experiences, health risks and service utilization in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. Qualitative and quantitative analyses revealed a series of results. Young IDUs described a range of health concerns, such as high rates of homelessness (94%), need for medical services (47%), squatting in abandoned buildings (32%) and problems finding clean syringes (24%). In addition to these broader concerns, young IDUs voiced three primary health risks: injection safety, violent injury including rape, and environmental health issues including mold and occupational hazards. Exposure to health risks was managed using several strategies, including avoidance of risky situations, reduction of drug abuse, and using protective equipment on job sites. Services most used in post-Katrina New Orleans included local hospitals or ERs, health clinics and drop-in sites. While seemingly a unique historical event, Hurricane Katrina offers many lessons regarding the impact of a large-scale disaster in an urban area. Findings may help anticipate the kinds of risk and protective behaviors to be found among young drug users following depopulation, destruction, and social disorganization.

Learning Objectives:
Recognize the primary three primary areas of health concern to IDUs in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, and the three environments in which those concerns occur. Articulate the strategies that IDUs use to cope with threats to their health and safety in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. Describe the use of supportive health services by IDUs in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.

Keywords: Injection Drug Users, Disasters

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am the biostatistician on the study for which the data was collected.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.