The 10th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina: Lessons Learned to Enhance the Resiliency of Health Infrastructures

HHS PHOTO CREDIT: NEW ORLEANS POST-HURRICANE KATRINAThe 10th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina is upon us and many people are taking this opportunity to look back on this historical devastating disaster, which hit the city of New Orleans on August 29, 2005, and reflect on the lessons learned by this horrific storm and how it impacted the citizens in Louisiana.

Such a reflection is shared on the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services website in a blog titled “#Katrina10: The Power of Community”, authored by Karen DeSalvo, MD, MPH, MSc, Acting Assistant Secretary for Health (ASH) and National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC). As stated in her article, Dr. DeSalvo shares:

“Together, we ensured that health care was not only restored, but rebuilt to be world-class and available to all. Today, New Orleans boasts a strong community health system of neighborhood-based clinics that serve 130,000 people, nearly one-third of whom are still uninsured, with high quality, affordable care at 60 sites across the metropolitan area. Additionally, the public health infrastructure has been reimagined and rebuilt into a local force for wellness. It serves the community not only in times of disaster but also on an everyday basis through prevention programs like FitNOLA or good policies like smoke-free spaces that make the healthy choice the easy choice.”

There is strength in numbers and during this heart-breaking tragedy, the outpour of assistance from the citizens of New Orleans and the United States, and the caring people of nations worldwide, came together to provide aide in multiple ways to assist New Orleans in their recovery.

As our nation focuses on the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, we should appreciate the important lessons learned from this tragedy that other communities can use to enhance the resiliency of their health infrastructures and lead to better health for all community members. I was pleased to Chair the National Academy of Medicine’s Committee on Post-Disaster Recovery of a Community’s Public Health, Medical and Social Services, which utilized the Katrina experience as an important component in formulating its recommendations on the importance and processes of preparing for disasters, and how to thoughtfully use the resources associated with disaster recovery to advance the long-term health of communities and its residents. It is our hope that, as we remember the Katrina experience, the public in general, and their community leaders specifically, will take the opportunity to review the recommendations in our report, Healthy, Resilient, and Sustainable Communities After Disasters: Strategies, Opportunities, and Planning for Recovery”, and apply them as appropriate to their circumstances.

(Photo Credit: HHS)