Disaster in the Gulf Coast

School of Public Health receives National Academies funding to study health impacts of disasters in the Gulf Coast Region

December 10, 2015

In an effort to improve planning and preparedness to enhance disaster resilience among individuals, communities and health systems in the U.S. Gulf Coast region, Jennifer Horney, Ph.D., M.P.H., CPH, of the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health, has been awarded $181,206 from The National Academies of Sciences Gulf Research Program.

Horney will lead a two-year study of the linkages between disaster exposure and subsequent health and health system outcomes across the Gulf of Mexico region. Horney, a disaster preparedness expert, has previously conducted research on multiple public health disasters including Hurricanes Charley, Isabel, Katrina, Wilma and Irene.

Specifically, the research team will conduct a large-scale evaluation of the effects of natural and technological disasters on the health status and health system use of those on Medicare living in coastal communities in the Gulf of Mexico region between 1999 and 2010. Through merging individual-level linked claims data with data from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Horney will create a single longitudinal data set that can be analyzed to better understand linkages between disaster exposure and subsequent health and health system outcomes across the Gulf Region.

With a triple threat of a growing population of socially vulnerable groups living in hazard-prone coastal areas such as the U.S. Gulf Coast where the number and severity of large-scale natural and technological disasters is increasing, it is critical that effective disaster preparedness interventions be put in place.

“Prior research demonstrates that socially vulnerable groups, including the elderly, suffer disproportionately from disasters,” Horney said. “Individuals and the health systems that serve them that effectively anticipate potential disaster impacts before they happen are likely to reduce disaster losses and ensure the maintenance of health and quality of life following a disaster.”

The results of this study will assist in the development of interventions to enhance the resilience of individuals and communities, or the systems that serve them, to future disasters of a potentially different type and scale.

Additional researchers include Hongwei Zhao, Sc.D., and Tiffany Radcliff, Ph.D., both from the Texas A&M School of Public Health.

 

— Rae Lynn Mitchell

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