Hurricane Aftermath Continues to Impact Children’s Health

Smiling child packs toys in storage binHurricane Katrina has left a disturbing percentage of children from the most at-risk and poorest families with mental health, behavioral, and physical disorders, according to a white paper entitled, ” The Legacy of Shame: The On-Going Public Health Disaster of Children Struggling in Post-Katrina Louisiana.” The paper was published in November by The Children’s Health Fund and the National Center for Disaster Preparedness, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. It states that those children have the highest levels of mental and physical health problems of any group of children in the United States.

According to the paper, “Fifty-five percent of elementary school-age children had a behavior or learning problem. Forty-two percent of children three years and older needed developmental or mental health services.” They list other very high percentages of physical health disorders. The white paper was based on 261 medical chart reviews from the Children’s Health Fund (CHF)/ Louisiana State University (LSU) Baton Rouge Children’s Health Project, which was under the direction of FEMA to provide services to the largest  trailer parks set up to house displaced families. The parks were dismantled last May, but the paper points to an estimated 20,000 children still displaced by the hurricanes.

The white paper states, “Not only has their health not improved since the storm; over time it has declined to an alarming level. This is reflected in their multiple medical and mental health needs, developmental and school problems, and an unusually high rate of nutrition problems identified when the children began health care in the Baton Rouge Children’s Health Project.”

The white paper includes recommendations: 1) that FEMA provide addresses of displaced families who lived in the trailer parks to the state of Louisiana in order to provide current assessments of the children’s health problems 2) a call to the Governor to create a task force of representatives from area medical facilities to establish where each child will be served; 3) development of a plan for each child that addresses academic and developmental concerns, with monitoring and reporting to the Governor; and six others.

© Copyright 2008 by Jolyn Wells-Moran, PhD, MSW. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Meg

    December 18th, 2008 at 2:05 PM

    These stories are so sad! It really does make me angry to think of how much of this could have been prevented by some better forethought by the state and federal governments in this situation. Children need to be in a place where they feel safe, comfortable, and secure and there is no telling how long this may be for this to happen for many of these displaced families. Those who handles this situation in such a poor manner ought to be ashamed. perhaps some of their fat paychecks should go to helping find these people whose lives have been completely destroyed adequate housing, clothing and shelter.

  • tiff

    December 19th, 2008 at 4:14 AM

    It is sad to hear this and very understandable why these children are having these problems. My god, look what they had to go through. No child or even adult should have to go thru with what they did with Katrina. That was such a terrible disaster in their lives.

  • Shelly

    December 19th, 2008 at 4:15 AM

    I agree with Meg. The response should not have taken as long as it did. They are human beings just like the rest of us and for the government to act the way they did, was very shameful. If it were their loved ones, I am sure they would have jumped on that situation in a hear beat.

  • Lydia

    December 20th, 2008 at 3:50 PM

    I lived through it and it was a nightmare for the entire family. We have yet to recover.

  • Jeremy

    December 21st, 2008 at 5:21 AM

    Sometimes I wonder if hurricane Katrina was a wake up call, making us sit up and notice what already was happening in society over time. I understand that these things make a lasting impact on people and definitely more so on children. I definitely feel that the govt. should take this study seriously as children make the future of this country.

  • karen

    December 21st, 2008 at 8:21 AM

    I vacationed in New Orleans twice, and absolutely loved the place. I feel like I could live there. It was awful for the disaster that had hit New Orleans and even worse for the government not to react in what should have been a timely manner. New Orleans is a beautiful place with Beautiful people and should not have had to go thru this.

  • Wendy

    December 21st, 2008 at 8:25 AM

    I hope that the recommendations in the article makes it’s way to the children. I hope that FEMA as well as the government help each child that was involved in Katrina in order to help with the child’s education.

  • Jim

    December 22nd, 2008 at 2:17 PM

    I went down to New Orleans after Katrina with a church group to help get food and water to those who were staying and was I ever blown away. The New Orleans that I saw was nothing of what they were showing on TV. This was a place that was surrounded by death and devastation and all I could keep thinking was that no amount of food and clothing was ever going to help the people there in the aftermath of what they had been through. I still to this day am haunted by the sadness and poverty that I saw there and I feel I have no right to feel bad because of all of the heartache that the residents have experienced. There are families who will never recover and I worry so much about what is going to happen to the children in these familes? They will see that people cared about them for a while but now Katrina is old news and all of the news crews and helping groups have gone away. How can we even think to send them back to that city when no one in high enough places even seems to care anymore?

  • John

    December 23rd, 2008 at 2:54 AM

    I hope this is better late than never. I think anyone who has been to New Orleans after Katrina would understand that sympathy or empathy is not going to help. Its very true that once a disaster is a month or 2 old, it becomes old news. Noone wants to know what happened to those whose lives are probably going to take more than a decade to reconstruct. Not surprising that children whose childhood has been robbed from them have problems leading normal lives.

  • Grace

    December 23rd, 2008 at 9:58 AM

    I really do wonder how long it is going to take so many of these children to recover from the tragedy that was Katrina. Not only have they lost their homes and friends, but they have also seen their parents robbed of everything they have worked so hard to obtain in their lives. I hope that all of us to continue to remember them in our thoughts and prayers this holiday season, as they are going to need our care for a long time yet to come.

  • Carson

    December 24th, 2008 at 5:24 AM

    How about the victims of other storms and in other regions of the world who are suffering today? It is sad to see this going on in our own country but we have to remember that there are parts of the world that are reeling from this kind of devastation everyday.

  • Steve H

    December 26th, 2008 at 5:10 AM

    Katrina helped to shed a real light on the things and services that are missing in our country. The poor in our country are highly underserved and people typically do not care about this until something goes horribly wrong like this storm and shines the spotlight on our failings. These are familes and children that we have seriously failed in our own efforts to get ahead many of them have and had been left behind. There is nothing about this that makes any sort of sense to me. We have to get better as a nation in coming together and taking care of one another rather than always just looking out for number one.

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