203093 Hurricane Katrina's impact on racial health disparities in Gulf Coast Mississippi: A multifaceted disaster

Monday, November 9, 2009: 1:30 PM

Lovetta Ann Brown, MD, MPH, CP , Medical Director, Office of Health Disparity Elimination, Mississippi Department of Health, Jackson, MS
Walter Jones, PhD , Division of Health Administration and Policy, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC
Gerri A. Cannon-Smith, MD, MPH , School of Public Health, Jackson State University, Jackson, MS
Vincent Mendy, MPH , Office of Health Disparity Elimination, MS State Department of Health, Jackson, MS
Thia Walker, MPH , Office of Health Disparity Elimination, Mississippi State Department of Health, Jackson, MS
Santosh S. Ghumare, MSPH , Center for Health Economics and Policy Studies, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC
Though Hurricane Katrina caused great damage in several states in August 2005, no area was hit as hard as the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. The area faced the strongest winds and storm surge, with 236 people killed, 67 missing, and an estimated $125-130 billion in damages. Entire towns were obliterated, with populations and businesses forced to relocate during an extended period of economic deprivation and community disruption. The individual and social costs have been immense, and have also magnified already large racial disparities between white and minority subpopulations. A study of these costs and impacts, sponsored by a state public health agency within the state of Mississippi, has been recently completed by the authors. It consists of document acquisition and analysis, a survey of 126 medical professionals in Gulf Coast Mississippi counties, and 18 interviews of individuals and groups involved in all aspects of the health response to Katrina. The results reveal the various damaging impacts of the storm on already significant racial disparities in health status and access to care. Minority communities, including African Americans, had greater difficulties immediately after Katrina, and have faced greater obstacles in recovery. Significant policy recommendations have been developed as a result of this research, including better cultural sensitivity training for public health and safety workers, a system of comprehensive training for local emergency responders, and collaborative efforts between public health and safety organizations, and local/state governments to provide seamless transportation systems for minority and special populations to obtain necessary health services.

Learning Objectives:
1. Describe 2 pre-existing health vulnerabilities in African-American communities in Gulf Coast Mississippi affected by Hurricane Katrina. 2. Explain how Hurricane Katrina exacerbated existing racial disparities in health status and access in Gulf Coast Mississippi. 3. Discuss 3 recommendations for health policy changes as a result of research on Hurricane Katrina and racial disparities.

Keywords: African American, Disasters

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have a great deal experience in work on health disparities reduction, and have participated in a major research project on Hurricane Katrina and its racial disparities impacts.
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.