Many Gulf Coast residents affected by Hurricane Katrina continue to have mental health problems, study finds

More than half of Louisiana and Mississippi residents affected by Hurricane Katrina in August 2005 continue to experience significant mental health problems, according to a study released on Friday by the American Medical Association, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports.

For the study, which will appear in the June issue of the journal Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness, researchers as part of Operation Assist -- a joint effort that involves the Children's Health Fund and the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health -- conducted in-person interviews with affected residents from more than 1,000 households between six months and one year after the hurricane. Researchers also conducted follow-up telephone interviews with study participants 20 to 23 months after the hurricane. The interviews examined the number of times that study participants moved, their incomes, their economic and social resources, and the health of their children.

Lead study author David Abramson, director of research at the National Center for Disaster Preparedness, said that although study participants reported increased access to health care, many remain insecure in their neighborhoods. In addition, he said that study participants with strong social support networks experienced the most improvement in mental health. Abramson said, "At the end of the day, our study shows it's not what type of housing you have, not your current economic situation, it had more to do with social factors," adding, "Helping to rebuild people's lives involves more than integrating housing, health care and education. We must figure out a way to help families fit into communities better" (Evans, New Orleans Times-Picayune, 5/31).

An abstract of the study is available online.


Kaisernetwork.orgThis article is republished with kind permission from our friends at The Kaiser Family Foundation. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery of in-depth coverage of health policy developments, debates and discussions. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for Kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Copyright 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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