Katrina One Year Later - Health and Health Care for Katrina's Victims

Jul 1, 2006
Hurricane Katrina claimed over 1,500 lives, injured thousands more, and severely disrupted health-care delivery in the Gulf Coast region.1 Many health-care providers worked heroically, often in extremely difficult conditions, both during and in the aftermath of the disaster to help Katrina's victims, but their efforts were hampered by a weakened government emergency health-care response system. Disproportionately, those in need of help were poor and people of color, groups that suffered from higher rates of illness and inadequate health care well before Katrina struck. In order to be prepared for the next national emergency-and to ensure that all who live in the United States can enjoy the basic health security necessary for opportunity-government must address the structural inequality that Katrina exposed. An important element of this effort will be to revamp a broken health-care system that exposes millions of Americans to the risk of poor health and financial ruin because they lack health insurance, and that too often treats patients inequitably on the basis of gender, race, and social class. This fact sheet examines the state of health care in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region prior to and after Hurricane Katrina. It also summarizes some of the environmental health risks in the region, which are some of the most significant in the nation. Finally, we provide recommendations for ways in which the country can ensure that all who live in America can enjoy a level of health security necessary to have a chance to succeed.
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