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Medical outreach following a remote disaster: Lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina

Anne Lang Dunlop, MD, MPH, Alexander P. Isakov, MD, MPH, Michael T. Compton, MD, MPH, Melissa White, MD, MPH, Hogai Nassery, MD, Erica Frank, MD, MPH, Karen Glanz, PhD, MPH

Abstract


In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, many individuals were evacuated to the Atlanta area (1,306 medical evacuees, over 100,000 self-evacuees), placing considerable strain on an already overburdened healthcare system. With the aim of improving future disaster responsiveness, we designed this in-depth case study to identify systemic vulnerabilities and gaps in community responsiveness to an influx of evacuees from a remote disaster. Qualitative methods were used to interview key informants both individually and in focus groups. Coding and content analysis of transcribed interview data were used to identify shared observations and common themes. Twenty-three individuals in leadership roles at the Woodruff Health Sciences Center of Emory University or the Grady Health System completed individual interviews; an additional 24 healthcare providers participated in focus groups. A strategy-based data-coding scheme for interview data was used to identify key foci, including services that met needs of evacuees, unmet needs, service provision that was successful/unsuccessful, underlying reasons for success or failure, and future needs for disaster planning and responsiveness. Analysis of interview data revealed important accomplishments and deficits in the medical community’s response in specific domains of community disaster planning and evaluation. For each key component of community disaster planning and evaluation, there are considerations at the institutional, regional, state, and federal levels. In the current study, these considerations were identified as instrumental in effectively meeting the healthcare needs of the evacuated population.


Keywords


disaster, evacuation, evacuees, healthcare needs, community response

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References


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5055/ajdm.2007.0021

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