Health Care Needs of Katrina Evacuees
Overview of the Event
Hurricane Katrina is a deadly storm that resulted in terrible damage especially in New Orleans and the surrounding areas on the 29th of August 2005. The calamity led to unprecedented loss of lives, thousands of casualties with severe injuries, and severe destruction of property (Fussell, 2015). A majority of the deaths and human injuries were due to massive flooding that was attributed to engineering flaws in the levees. The resulting devastating storm made Katrina the most destructive natural disaster in the United States history with the highest cost implications (Raker et al., 2019). A multidisciplinary team consisting of local, state, and federal agencies were responsible for evacuating victims to safe grounds before the storm made landfall. The evacuees presented diverse needs and were settled evenly across several states, including Arkansas, Texas, Arizona, Utah, and West Virginia. The population of the affected areas such, as Arkansas, increased steadily due to the influx of the affected people during that period (Fussell, 2015). The catastrophic even necessitate close collaboration within a multidisciplinary team comprising state and national agencies to enhance the response and health outcomes of the victims.
Public Health Issues
Hurricane Katrina flooded the city of New Orleans and resulted in various public health concerns for the population. The agencies collaboratively conducted a surveillance of the healthcare needs and discovered the following needs after interviewing the affected persons and households (Fussell, 2015). The evacuees were standing in floodwater, while also drinking tap water from the affected area. Other individuals were swallowing the floodwater, and stepping on sharp objects, such as nails. The surveillance also discovered that a small percentage of the affected people were breathing in fumes. A majority of the victims had pre-existing chronic disorders, such as depression, asthma, heart disorders, diabetes, hepatitis, epilepsy, and high blood pressure (Raker et al., 2019). Over 60 percent of the victims, including children and adults, reported at least one existing health condition. Among the urgent needs, the evacuees experienced oral pain. Other critical concerns included addressing physical and mental health injuries caused by the tempest, such as depression and painful swelling.
The Healthcare Agencies and Additional Stakeholders and Lesson Learned
A multidisciplinary team comprising of state and federal agencies and stakeholders worked together during the Hurricane Katrina event to ensure they address the health care need of the victims. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and health institutions are some of the agencies mandating moving the victims to unaffected areas. Department of Health DOH Epidemiology branch involving numerous epidemiologists helped conduct health assessments in the shelters. CDC response team was also available and collaborated with the EPI Branch in developing health assessment and surveillance procedures. A team consisting of epidemiologists and volunteers from the University of Arkansas Medical School (UAMS).
After the completion of surveillance and interviews, the healthcare agencies and stakeholders discovered various gaps and anomalies within the disaster management process. Most importantly, relevant state and federal agencies, including CDC, EPA, and Public Health Preparedness and Response branches, need to conduct frequent in-depth evaluations of the current DOH regulations and guidelines. The assessments will help to determine the adequacy of their response framework in terms of effectively executing an EPI retort to an emergency health event.
There is a strong need to recruit epidemiologists to create teams and offer basic emergency response drills that include disease investigation and surveillance, incidence command system, and Radiation Dose Assessments for effective preparedness. There is the need to establish procedures for epidemiological screening, monitoring, and test interview questions that are appropriate for various public health situations. The proficiency of epidemiologists is still ineffective in using software systems and needs training. The available software programs for the management and analysis of health event data are inadequate and hence the need for their establishments.
This section outlines specific activities and strategies that would be more effective for future crisis events. First, there is a need to recruit epidemiologists to create teams and offer basic emergency response drills that include disease investigation and surveillance, incidence command system, and Radiation Dose Assessments for effective preparedness. The next step would be to establish procedures for epidemiological screening, monitoring, and test interview questions that are appropriate for various public health situations. I would also determine the software programs that would be appropriate for the management and analysis of the respective health event information. Epidemiologists would then undergo training to improve their proficiency in using the software systems. I would also establish and keep an electronic inventory of collaborating agencies, shelter assets, worship spots, medical centers, nursing homes, retail shops, laboratories, and drug stores. Developing and keeping electronic records of health caregivers, such as doctors, dentists, nurses, and psychiatrists, would be helpful. The last step would be to create a program that would permit a follow-up of the victims of the respective event.
Conclusion on Preparedness Plan and Process
All public health agencies need to be ready for any health event. The formation of the Public Health Information Network Compliance Committee would be essential. The network would consist of five sectors with different roles. These work areas include Early Event Detection, Outbreak Management, Communications, and Partner Alert, Countermeasure and Response Administration, and Lab Communication. The committee would integrate the functions of these network branches for the early detection of health events and notify the collaborators on time. The scheme would also ensure timely tracking of countermeasure procedures and effective management of the individuals affected by the health event.
Fussell, E. (2015). The long-term recovery of New Orleans’ population after Hurricane Katrina. American Behavioral Scientist, 59(10), 1231-1245.
Raker, E. J., Lowe, S. R., Arcaya, M. C., Johnson, S. T., Rhodes, J., & Waters, M. C. (2019). Twelve years later: The long-term mental health consequences of Hurricane Katrina. Social Science & Medicine, 242, 112610.