THE NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH awarded a $6.7 million grant to Tulane University to support a multi-university network of researchers studying the lasting health, demographic, and socioeconomic impacts of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans and the broader region.
Researchers will collect data during the next two years to gauge whether trauma or resiliency exhibited in the aftermath of the hurricane persists and how different populations have recovered or faltered. The goal is to create a detailed portrait of where the city and different groups of Katrina survivors stand more than a decade after the disaster, says Mark VanLandingham, contact principal investigator for the study.
“There are very few studies that look at the long-term consequences of a major event like Katrina because it’s so difficult and complicated,” says VanLandingham, Thomas C. Keller professor of global community health and behavioral sciences at Tulane. “We’re interested in who came back to the city, who didn’t, and why. Also, who are the newcomers? Regarding outcomes, disparities is a central theme: Why are some faring better than others? Change over time is another theme: How does the long term differ from the short and medium terms?
“The recent commemoration of the storm’s 10th anniversary this past August made clear that there are a lot of impressions about how these themes are playing out, but there isn’t a lot of hard data, especially with regard to how disparities might persist – or dissipate – over time.”
The five-year grant will establish the Tulane Center for Studies on Displaced Populations. It consolidates funding for several ongoing NIH and foundation-funded studies that focus on vulnerability and resiliency for different populations affected by the storm, including low-income parents enrolled at a local community college, Gulf Coast families that were displaced into temporary housing, Vietnamese-American families and a representative sample of affected New Orleans residents. VanLandingham will lead the research with David Abramson of New York University and Mary Waters of Harvard.
In advance of the grant announcement, VanLandingham and his research partners also coordinated a one-day conference with participation form nationally acclaimed disaster experts, held two days prior to the anniversary of Katrina. KATRINA@10: Assessments of Recovery, Return, Resilience, and Enduring Vulnerabilities, shared interdisciplinary research on the storm’s lasting impacts on the city of New Orleans as well as the lives of survivors.
—Keith Brannon (Originally published in Tulane New Wave)