Lessons from Hurricane Katrina and Rita

December 3, 2007

PI: Laura Stough, PhD, Texas A&M University

The Center on Disability and Development (CDD) at Texas A&M University with its partners Independent Living Research Utilization (ILRU) at Memorial Hermann TIRR and the Center for Persons with Disabilities (CPD) at Utah State University will collaborate on a study of the impact of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita on people with disabilities and chronic diseases, examining the barriers and disruptions they experienced in their lives, services, and supports, the strategies they have used to reestablish their lives, and their disaster related needs during the recovery phase of disaster.

Specifically, this study will examine the factors that affect the recovery of individuals with intellectual disabilities or chronic diabetes with the goal to produce evidence-based knowledge that will be of use in mitigating the effects of disaster on these populations. As such, this study falls under NIH's mission to produce scientific knowledge that will lead to an application of that knowledge that will reduce the burdens of illness and disability. Specific objectives of this proposed project are as follows:

  1. Obtain direct reports from a group of 50 individuals with various disabilities and chronic diseases on their experiences before, during, and following disaster and provide a qualitative analysis of common themes and concerns;
  2. Survey 200 individuals with disabilities and chronic diseases on the status of their recovery from a major disaster and their level of preparedness for future disasters and conduct a quantative analysis of these surveys; and
  3. Validate findings in two focus group sessions (seven to twelve participants each) with a cross section of fifty individuals who participated in initial interviews.

A mixed-methods approach will be used to collect and analyze the data. Data collection will be done through: 1) semi-structured face-to-face interviews 2) telephone surveys, and 3) focus groups. The proposed study holds promise of being seminal in that it will fill a research gap; almost no research exists on the direct experiences of individuals with disabilities and chronic diseases during the recovery phase of disaster. The outcomes of this research will include strategies for better emergency preparedness and return to a pre-disaster level of supports for individuals with intellectual disabilities or diabetes, thus supporting their overall quality of life and health status.