Long Term Resilience and Recovery from Disasters

Award Year:
Jean Rhodes, Mary Waters
Disaster Management and Policy
Despite the regular occurrence of large scale natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes and tornadoes, evidence based policy recommendations for maximizing long term resilience and recovery has been thin. Research on large scale disasters has suffered from three problems—a lack of pre-disaster data, the short term focus of most studies that end soon after the initial impact, and a focus on the recovery of the place where the disaster occurred, rather than on the recovery of the people who experienced the disaster; wherever they may be. The RISK study—Resilience of Survivors in Hurricane Katrina is a longitudinal study of a vulnerable population—1,019 largely female African American poor people in New Orleans. They were part of a study of community college students that began a year before Hurricane Katrina. We had two waves of pre-disaster data on physical and mental health, social support, social trust, socioeconomic status and geo-coded neighborhood indicators. With support from NSF and NIH we relocated the participants and have surveyed them in 2006 and again in 2009-2010, back in New Orleans and in the 31 different states where they now lived. Our overall aim in this proposed three year project is to understand the mechanisms by which disasters affect the mental and physical health of vulnerable populations over the long-term, as well as how policy interventions can prevent resource loss and promote recovery. We seek funding to analyze our longitudinal physical and mental health data and to write a book and short policy briefs synthesizing our study and drawing out the implications for disaster and health care policy. We seek to identify the ways in which local, state and federal policy responses, as well as decisions made by private employers and non profits, can lessen the long term negative health impacts of disaster and displacement and can promote long term recovery and resilience.