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Tufts University School of Medicine

Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath included spike in heart disease hospitalizations

Thursday, January 31, 2019 - 9:45am

BOSTON (Jan. 31, 2019)—Natural disasters such as earthquakes, tornados, and hurricanes are generally described in terms of wind speed, land area, and inches of rain. They’re also described in terms of human costs, such as the number of fatalities and injuries. Hurricane Katrina, for example, led to approximately 1,000 deaths in Louisiana, of which 75 percent were among adults age 60 or above.

What are the hidden health costs, though, that might not be reported immediately, but which are a result of a natural disaster? Some studies have looked at stress disorders, but a new study from researchers and scholars at Tufts University examined changes in the number of cardiovascular disease (CVD) hospitalizations before and after Katrina, and the disparate effect of Katrina on black and white older adults in Louisiana.

The co-first author on the study is Ninon Becquart, a former scholar in the NIH-funded Post-Baccalaureate Research Program (PREP) at Tufts who used R, SQL, and ArcMap to conduct sophisticated data analysis, including visualization. She was mentored on the research project by Elena Naumova, chair of the Division of Nutrition Data Science at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts.

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