Discussion 1: Applied Epidemiology

NURS 8310 Discussion 1: Applied Epidemiology

Discussion 1: Applied Epidemiology

The Impact of Natural Disasters on Community Mental Health

Traumatic Events and Population Health

Natural disasters kill on average 60,000 people yearly and are responsible for 0.1% of global deaths (Ritchie & Roser, 2014). Disasters include geophysical, meteorological, and climate events and can be caused by earthquakes,  volcanic eruptions, wildfires, storms, and hurricanes (Ritchie &Roser, 2014). These events are considered traumatic and can trigger stress in the affected individual leading to mental health issues. The after-effects of surviving a hurricane can elevate symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety. PTSD  often stems from a massive trauma that has been experienced by an entire population such as earthquakes, terrorist attacks, hurricanes, and wildfires (Friis & Sellers, 2021).

Epidemiologic Response to PTSD

Epidemiologic research has examined various mental health outcomes such as PTSD, that are a result of extremely traumatic events

Discussion 1 Applied Epidemiology
Discussion 1 Applied Epidemiology

Friis & Sellers, 2021). PTSD victims tend to reexperience the traumatic event, whether a natural disaster, war, or rape, which may then progress in some instances to persisting psychopathology (Friis & Sellers, 2021). Mental health epidemiology developed easily administered instruments to assess the prevalence of mental disorders in population surveys (Friis & Sellers, 2021). Self-reported depression symptom scales, such as the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression (CES-D) scale, have proven to be a reliable, sensitive, and valid measure of depressive symptoms and change depressive symptoms as clinical interview ratings (Friis & Sellers, 2021). The CES-D scale examines how individuals who experience a natural disaster vary in the severity of their response and the relationship between proximity to the traumatic event and degree of mental impairment (Friis & Sellers, 2021).


Factors that Made Community Response Ineffective

The medical focus in disaster preparedness has always been on injury, infection prevention, and exposure-related illness (Yun et al., 2010). Post-disaster mental health interventions have always been lacking, and incorporating mental health-related emergency response into the core competencies for disaster preparedness is important (Yun et al., 2010).  Mental health services to assist with coping with the loss of family or property are not always readily accessible to individuals in need, particularly in rural and lower-income communities. Furthermore, best practices for surveillance for mental health problems and substance abuse during disasters remain largely undeveloped (Yun et al., 2010).

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Friis, H.R., & Sellers, T.A. (2021). Epidemiology for Public Health Practice (6th ed.). Jones & Bartlett Learning.


Ritchie, H., & Roser, M. (2014). Natural disasters. Our World in Data. Retrieved from

Yun, K., Lurie, N., & Hyde, P.S. (2010). Moving mental health into the disaster-preparedness spotlight. The New England Journal of Medicine, 363(13),1193-1195. Retrieved from

Week 11: Applied Epidemiology Hurricane Katrina

Week 11: Applied Epidemiology

Hurricane Katrina

     The third deadliest hurricane in the history of the United States is Katrina, with more than 1,800 people losing their lives across

Florida, Mississippi, and Louisiana (Hurricane Science, 2020). Louisiana alone approximately evacuated 1.5 million people before the

storm, but an estimated 200,000 individuals stayed through the hurricane (Medicine et al., 2007). Although three states were affected,

Louisiana’s city of New Orleans received the most significant news media coverage because of the death and destruction Hurricane

Katrina caused in that area.

Population Health Issues

The existing floodwaters presented the most critical health issues to the population of New Orleans. The standing water was a

breeding ground for mosquitoes, increasing the outbreak of West Nile disease, growing mold, and rising endotoxins levels (Frank,

2012). So, people developed illnesses from contaminated food, water, and unsafe housing structures.

Epidemiological Consideration

     In the case of Hurricane Katrina, policymaking is essential to ensuring this type of disaster does not happen again. The local and

state governing bodies neglecting to fund repairs caused the levee to break in New Orleans. When budgetary issues significantly

impact policy options (Nash et al., 2019), people can suffer from placing money over doing what is best for the community. Leading to

diseases such as Escherichia coli counts, which were found to be 100 times higher than those typically found in river runoff water in

New Orleans (Barclay, 2005)

Response of the Community and/or Nation

Hurricane Katrina revealed that natural disasters and public health crises are equally crucial as threats to national security and

uncovered The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) incompetence to respond to these disasters (Guidotti, 2006). The

unpreparedness of FEMA left millions of people vulnerable to environmental and health issues. People were left without food, lights,

clean water, and unsafe housing/shelter. The recuse methods were insufficient and unplanned, leaving people in the community to

assist one another.


Barclay, L. D. (2005). Epidemiologic consequences of Hurricane Katrina: A newsmaker interview with Raoult Ratard, MD. Medscape.

Frank, B. (2012). The health effects of Hurricane Katrina [Case Study].

Guidotti, T. L. (2006). Hurricane Katrina: An American tragedy. Occupational Medicine, 56(4), 222–224.

Medicine, I. O., Board on Population Health And Public Health Practice, & Research, And Medicine Roundtable On Environmental Health Sciences. (2007). Environmental public health impacts of disasters: Hurricane Katrina: Workshop summary. National Academies Press.

 Nash, D. B., Skoufalos, A., Fabius, R. J., & Oglesby, W. H. (2019). Policy and advocacy. In Population health: Creating a culture of wellness (3rd ed.). Jones & Bartlett Learning.!