Katrina's lasting damage to children's health documented

June 15, 2006



A study by the Mailman School of Public Health of Columbia University and the Children¹s Defense Fund has found profound health deficiencies in displaced families living in trailers or hotels provided by the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

In face-to-face interviews with 650 families, researchers found that 34% of children suffer from a chronic condition, including asthma, anxiety disorder, and behavioral problems. For comparison, a 2003 survey of urban Louisiana children found a 26% prevalence of such conditions.

Fourteen percent of the displaced children had gone without prescribed medication at some point during the three months before the survey, compared to 2% in the pre-hurricane survey. Nearly one quarter of school-age children were not enrolled in school or had missed at least 10 days of school in the previous month. Their families had moved 3.5 times, on average, since the storm. Parents and guardians were similarly affected: 44% said they had no health insurance; nearly half were managing at least one chronic condition, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and cancer; and more than half of mothers and other female caregivers scored very low on a mental health exam that screens for such disorders as depression and anxiety.