Online Program

Disaster Exposure and Health Impacts Among Children

Tuesday, November 3, 2015 : 4:30 p.m. - 4:40 p.m.

David Abramson, PhD MPH, Global Institute of Public Health, New York University, New York, NY
Alexis Merdjanoff, PhD, College of Global Public Health, New York University, New York, NY
Rachael Piltch-Loeb, MSPH, Global Institute of Public Health, New York University, New York, NY
Lori Peek, PhD, Department of Sociology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO
Patricia A. Findley, DrPH, MSW, School of Social Work, Rutgers,The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick, NJ
Donna Van Alst, PhD CSW MBA, Institute for Families, School of Social Work, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
Background:   Disasters create extraordinary stresses in children’s lives, disrupting routines, damaging homes and schools, compromising protective social networks, and occasionally resulting in familial death or disability. Superstorm Sandy proved to be a devastating weather event.  In New Jersey it damaged 325,000 homes, left 2.6 million residents without power, and caused over $30 billion in damages.  The Sandy Child and Family Health Study (S-CAFH) objectives include assessing children’s exposure and health outcomes.

Methods: S-CAFH is an observational cohort study of 1,000 randomly sampled New Jersey households exposed to the storm. In-person interviews were conducted with one adult in each household (completed Feb 2015) and with one sampled child between the ages of 10-17 at the time of the storm (completed May 2015).  Parents report on their child’s incident health conditions, mental health and emotional distress, high-risk behaviors, and academic outcomes. Adolescents are surveyed about their experience and perception of types of direct exposure, including sense of life threat, physical harm, material damage or loss, social disruption, and displacement, as well as their perception of their health status, high-risk behaviors, coping and self-efficacy, and academic outcomes.

Findings:  Over 40% of parents reported mental health distress among their children.  Households with children were particularly vulnerable, and were more likely to report loss of jobs and significant financial constraints after the storm. A structural equation model estimates the combined effects of individual, household, and communal factors on children’s health.

Conclusions: Household and communal contextual factors are significant factors in children’s health and well-being.

Learning Areas:

Advocacy for health and health education
Public health or related public policy
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Identify different types and magnitude of disaster exposure among children affected by a natural hazard. Assess the relationship among social factors, household factors and children's health and well-being.

Keyword(s): Disasters, Adolescents

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am the Study Director of the Sandy Child and Family Health Study, and have conducted a number of other disaster studies of the impact of disasters on children, including among children exposed to Hurricane Katrina and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
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.