Health and Wellness in New Orleans 15 Years after Hurricane Katrina: Implications for Primary Care

Hurricane Katrina caused devastation among the Gulf Coast of the U.S. and New Orleans. This study evaluated the impact on health and wellness 15 years post-Katrina. The study compared New Orleans with Louisiana and the United States. Changes in health and wellness overall the 15-year period were studied. Data was abstracted from multiple sources; local, state, and national. The study found population number and composition changes in New Orleans, which were not seen in Louisiana and the U.S. Crime statistics, indicate a dramatic increase in violence and criminal acts. Age-adjusted cause-specific mortality rates in New Orleans increased immediately after Hurricane Katrina for homicide, but, over time, rates decreased. Racial differences were observed among non-Hispanic Blacks, who had higher rates in heart disease, cancer, homicide, stroke, accidents/unintended injuries, and infant deaths. These differences were also seen in morbidity, especially in new cases of HIV. It appears that racial health disparities are exacerbated by disasters. Additionally, the inequities in social (i.e., income, poverty, education) and neighborhood (i.e., crime) characteristics are prevalent, and, in part, influence the documented health disparities, as well. The implications for primary care include expansion and modification of behavioral and mental health services, increased health equity promoting activities through community-based collaboration for outreach and political advocacy, data-driven population health management strategies, as well as a newfound emphasis on health-related quality of health.

This article was published in the International Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care, in the September 21, 2020 issue and authored by Peter J Fos, Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Center, Dillard University, Peggy A Honoré, LSU Health Sciences Center, School of Public Health, School of Medicine and Katrina P. Kellum, College of Nursing, Dillard University. Dr. Peggy Honoré is a Professor in the LSU School of Public Health, Health Policy & Systems Management Program.

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