204025 Hurricane Katrina's impacts on immigrant rights and health services in Gulf Coast Mississippi

Monday, November 9, 2009: 2:50 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
Hurricane Katrina not only caused enormous damage in the Mississippi's Gulf Coast, but also changed the ethnic composition of the region's counties. Population shifts include a significant influx of Hispanics involved in construction and other recovery-related enterprises. Many of these individuals are undocumented and are not legally eligible for health services. Since Hurricane Katrina also severely damaged health care facilities and led to an outmigration of health professionals, it clearly has created serious and enduring obstacles to health care access for Gulf Coast immigrants. A study of the impacts of Hurricane Katrina on Gulf Coast Mississippi, sponsored by a state public health organization, 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 in-depth interviews of individuals and groups involved in all aspects of the health response to Katrina. It shows that immigrants lack many essential health services, including dental and other primary care, and consequently experience high rates of chronic illnesses such as diabetes and HIV/AIDS. All too often, concerns about immigrant legal status have resulted in the neglect of individual, family and overall community health. Several important policy reform proposals have been developed based on this report. Local emergency responders must be effectively trained in cultural competency, and local immigrants, along with their advocacy groups and organizations, must also be given training in emergency preparedness activities. Additionally, the private sector (including employers) must provide essential medical services for immigrant populations.

Learning Objectives:
1. Explain how Hurricane Katrina affected the demographic composition of Gulf Coast Mississippi. 2. Describe how Hurricane Katrina has reduced access to health services for immigrant groups in Gulf Coast Mississippi. 3. Formulate possible health system reforms that would improve immigrant health access, status and outcomes in Gulf Coast Mississippi.

Keywords: Immigrants, Hispanic

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have considerable administrative and research experience in immigrant health services and disparities.
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.