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Keywords:

  • disaster planning;
  • mental health;
  • nurses;
  • nursing;
  • policy;
  • public health nursing

Aims.  To assess the medium-term post-Katrina mental and physical health of New Orleans residents and to determine demographic, social and environmental factors that predict poor mental and physical health.

Background.  Major disasters can have a negative impact on the health of survivors for prolonged periods. Although the initial and short-term impacts of Hurricane Katrina have been well described, the medium-term impacts have not been studied as thoroughly.

Design.  Cross-sectional survey.

Methods.  A convenience sample (= 222) of residents in Gentilly area of New Orleans completed questionnaires between 16 and 18 December 2006. Multivariate logistic regression and multiple regression models were employed to determine predictors of poor mental and physical health.

Results.  Poor mental health was reported by 52% of the respondents. Pre-Katrina depression [odds ratio (OR) = 19·1], post-Katrina depression (OR = 7·2), poor physical health (OR = 5·6), feeling unsafe from crime (OR = 4·3) and female gender (OR = 2·6) were significant predictor variables of poor mental health. Twenty-four percent of the variance in number of days of poor mental health was explained by the independent variables (R2 = 0·24; < 0·001). Poor physical health was reported by 48% of the respondents. Poor mental health (OR = 3·9), lack of money to buy food (OR = 2·7) and pre-Katrina arthritis (OR = 2·6) were significant predictor variables of poor physical health. Twenty-three percent of the variance in number of days of poor physical health was explained by the independent variables (R2 = 0·23; < 0·001).

Conclusions.  Approximately half of the New Orleans residents continue to experience poor mental and physical health 15 months after Katrina. The results support focusing post-Katrina efforts to protect residents from crime, improve mental health services to the depressed and improve food supply to the poor.

Relevance to clinical practice.  Identifying predictors of poor mental and physical health may help clinicians and policy makers to focus their efforts in ameliorating the post-disaster health sequelae.