The October issue of the American Journal of Public Health is now online and it includes a Special Section on Hurricane Katrina 15 Years After. This Special Section was a collaboration between the LSU Health School of Public Health, Tulane School of Public Health, Louisiana Public Health Institute, and a few other partners in New Orleans.
In this issue (October 2020Vol. 110, No. 10) the LSU School of Public Health’s contributing authors and featured publications are the following:
Hurricane Katrina at 15: Introduction to the Special Section
Hurricane Katrina was a social and public health disaster. From the perspectives of health care systems, the environment, community health, and everything in between, Katrina devastated New Orleans, Louisiana, and the Gulf Coast. In the 15 years since the storm, we have learned much about how devastating natural disasters can be for a community and how many ways public health can be involved in creating opportunities for recovery and preparing for the next disaster. Some of the lessons that we learned and that we need to learn are touched on in this special section. Click here to read the full article.
Shelina Davis is with the Louisiana Public Health Institute, New Orleans. Knesha, Rose-Davison is with AgriSafe Network, Inc., Covington, LA. Dean G. Smith is with the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, School of Public Health, New Orleans.
ARTICLE CITATION: Shelina Davis, KneshaRose-Davison, Dean G.Smith, “Hurricane Katrina at 15: Introduction to the Special Section”, American Journal of Public Health 110, no. 10 (October 1, 2020): pp. 1461-1462./ https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2020.305885/ PMID: 32903087
Speaking Truth to Power on How Hurricane Katrina Beat Us
KATRINA’S IMPACT – Hurricane Katrina beat us. We lost the ability to communicate, transport by land and air, and provide health care for the population. Louisiana and Mississippi communities sustained a complete collapse of their civil infrastructures, including police, fire, medical and public health, and communication. The storm and its ensuing flooding caused the largest forced migration in US history. Hurricane Katrina’s eastward path spared metro New Orleans, Louisiana, from a direct hit. However, the coastal storm surge, combined with surge in a manmade canal (Mississippi River Gulf Outlet) that over 30 years destroyed important protective wetlands, severely strained the levee system.2 The result was 12 feet of flooding in 80% of New Orleans. Click here to read the full article.
Lieutenant General Russel L. Honore´, (US Army, Retired), was Commander of Joint Task Force–Katrina. He served for 37 years in the US Army. Immediately before retirement, he was the Commanding General of the US First Army at Fort Gillem, Georgia. General Honore´ consults nationally on Building a Culture of Preparedness and currently works with concerned groups to eliminate environmental injustices across the state of Louisiana. He is an adjunct Associate Professor, Health Policy and Systems Management, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, School of Public Health, New Orleans.
ARTICLE CITATION: Russel L.Honoré, “Speaking Truth to Power on How Hurricane Katrina Beat Us”, American Journal of Public Health 110, no. 10 (October 1, 2020): pp. 1463-1465. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2020.305778 / PMID: 32903078
The Environmental Health Impact of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans
Hurricane Katrina caused unprecedented damage to New Orleans, Louisiana, by flooding 80% of the city. Katrina was the costliest hurricane in US history and caused $17 billion in damages in Orleans Parish (county equivalent) alone. Katrina also caused more deaths in Louisiana (n = 1170) than in any other Gulf Coast state.2 In addition to its tragic human toll, Katrina left an environmental toll of oil spills, storm debris, damaged sewage and water treatment systems, abandoned housing, and widespread mold.
We identify Katrina’s major health and environmental impacts on New Orleans and their enduring effects. The major categories of Katrina’s environmental legacies included population relocation, abandoned neighborhoods, floodwaters and sediments, solid wastes and landfills, infrastructure damages, microbiological effects, and coastal land losses.
James H. Diaz, MD, DrPH, Kari F. Brisolara, ScD, Daniel J. Harrington, ScD, Chih-yang Hu, ScD, and Adrienne L. Katner, DEnv. All of the authors are with the School of Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Program, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, School of Public Health, New Orleans. James H. Diaz is also with the School of Medicine, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center.
ARTICLE CITATION:James H.Diaz, Kari F.Brisolara, Daniel J.Harrington, Chih-yangHu, Adrienne L.Katner, “The Environmental Health Impact of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans”, American Journal of Public Health 110, no. 10 (October 1, 2020): pp. 1480-1484. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2020.305809 / PMID: 32816551
Community Health Worker Leadership In Louisiana, During and After Hurricane Katrina
Community health workers(CHWs) have been building capacity among under resourced populations in the United States for decades by addressing health inequity and its underlying social determinants. In 2005, hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck the Greater New Orleans, Louisiana area, bringing massive infrastructure damage and loss of life. A complex series of political and
social issues followed, leaving close to half of the city’s residents displaced a year later. Those who returned struggled to rebuild their homes, enroll their children in a newly privatized school system, live in increasingly gentrified neighborhoods, navigate a fragmented health care system, and grieve the loss of entire communities. CHWs not only supported recovery from the devastation but also learned important lessons through organizing themselves into a professional association to support their growing workforce and influence policy.
Catherine G. Haywood and Dana R. Feist are with the Louisiana Community Health Outreach Network, New Orleans. Meredith K. Sugarman, Pascaline Ezouah, and Ashley Wennerstrom are with the Center for Healthcare Value and Equity, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, New Orleans. Ashley Wennerstrom is also with the Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, School of Public Health, New Orleans.
ARTICLE CITATION: Catherine G.Haywood, Dana R.Feist, Meredith K.Sugarman, PascalineEzouah, AshleyWennerstrom, “Community Health Worker Leadership In Louisiana, During and After Hurricane Katrina”, American Journal of Public Health 110, no. 10 (October 1, 2020): pp. 1498-1499. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2020.305741 / PMID: 32903084
Pets in Comprehensive Disaster Planning: The Post–Hurricane Katrina Experience
Before Hurricane Katrina, the City of New Orleans, Louisiana, had emergency preparedness plans that focused on the care of pets in shelters. With required evacuation of the city, pets of families without transportation or other options were left behind or became separated. Many people refused evacuation efforts to remain with their pets, some to their own peril. People take great risks by refusing to evacuate and by seeking to retrieve pets. Including pets in disaster plans can benefit pet owners’ physical and mental wellbeing, ensure an adequate workforce, and prevent the spread of zoonotic diseases and other consequences of unattended pets.
Sarah A. Babcock is with the Healthy Environments Program, New Orleans Health Department, New Orleans, LA. Dean G. Smith is with the School of Public Health, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center-New Orleans. Dean G. Smith is Dean and Professor in Health Policy & Systems Management in the School of Public Health, New Orleans.
ARTICLE CITATION: Sarah A.Babcock, Dean G.Smith, “Pets in Comprehensive Disaster Planning: The Post–Hurricane Katrina Experience”, American Journal of Public Health 110, no. 10 (October 1, 2020): pp. 1500-1501. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2020.305752 / PMID: 32903070
From Katrina to COVID-19: Hard-Learned Lessons and Resilience
During March and early April 2020, Louisiana experienced a surge in the number of cases and deaths from COVID-19—and New Orleans quickly became an epicenter for the pandemic. With
Carnival season came 1.4 million visitors to New Orleans, and with them came COVID-19. Unfortunately, the Mardi Gras celebrations were some of the most populous events in the United States at the very time the virus was circulating and before the spread had been widely understood or acknowledged. Almost two weeks to the day after our Fat Tuesday celebration, Louisiana identified the first case of COVID-19, and the state quickly began to realize that our celebration of life would leave a trail of thousands of deaths in its wake.
The federal government mismanaged public health surveillance efforts. The lack of widespread testing and contact tracing and the poor communication in the early days of the pandemic were catalysts for exponential viral spread. Although many would exclusively blame national leadership, our failures are also owing to chronic under funding and poor engineering of national public health systems combined with a highly infectious virus that can spread even from people without symptoms.
Louisiana is not new to bad luck, perfect storms, tragedy, or poor engineering. We are a resilient people. Our unique culture and celebrations unite us, and our tragedies level and teach us. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the state developed some of the most robust public health data collection systems and disaster preparedness infrastructures in the nation. While I was the secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH), I led disaster recovery and preparedness efforts and witnessed these systems in action. The lessons learned from our experiences with natural disasters can serve as a roadmap to other states to navigate back to normalcy.
Rebekah E. Gee is CEO of the Louisiana State University Health Care Services Division, New Orleans, LA and Adjunct Professor in Health Policy & Systems Management in the School of Public Health, New Orleans.