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Original Article

Why Current Medical Management Is Failing Victims of Hurricane Katrina: A Review of Past Successes and Failures in Postdisaster Psychosocial Treatment

Franklin King, IV BA, William C. Steinmann, MD, MSc
Volume: 100 Issue: 10 October, 2007

Abstract:

Background: More than one year after Hurricane Katrina, victims exhibit symptoms of a “chronic disease,” representing the disruption of psychosocial health. This systematic review assesses the effects of trauma on multiple domains of health following a disaster.


Method: Authors searched disaster-related literature from 1971 to present, focusing on recent literature involving Hurricane Andrew and outcomes in nonphysical domains of health. Research relied mainly on PubMed, using keywords including “disaster,” “hurricane,” “psychosocial,” “social,” and “stress.”


Results: Disaster victims are at risk for negative psychosocial health. Pre-Katrina, the majority of storm victims already exhibited several risk factors that made them candidates for low levels of health.


Conclusions: Individuals affected by Hurricane Katrina, both those remaining in the Gulf Coast and evacuees, are at significant risk for low levels of psychosocial health. To prevent long-term health deficits in the region, a concerted effort of research and healthcare initiatives is needed as soon as possible.


Key Points


* Disasters have been shown to adversely affect all domains of victims’ health.


* Psychosocial health is often overlooked in the aftermath of disasters.


* Targeting aspects of psychosocial health can maximize positive disaster recovery.


* New Orleans and the Gulf Coast continue to be affected by low health indicators in the wake of Katrina.


* The medical establishment could maximize resources by devoting more work into psychosocial support, especially considering the current shortage of healthcare professionals in New Orleans.

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