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Environmental Public Health Impacts of Disasters: Hurricane Katrina - Workshop Summary
still continuing. For some individuals, daily life is still a hardship, and for others, life is beginning to approach normalcy.
Hurricane Katrina called attention to the need to prepare for large-scale disasters. In brief, what is clear is that preparing for health risks must occur long before a disaster strikes and that addressing health problems continues long after the initial search and rescue and other activities of the emergency period. In a disaster, integrated, up-to-date scientific information is required to respond to rapidly changing circumstances. Significant strides toward integration have occurred, but it is clear that additional planning, research, and integration are needed. Unlike many scientific subjects, for which the practitioner’s knowledge is solid but public awareness lags, disaster response and preparedness are areas in which professional understanding, capabilities, and approaches are evolving rapidly and substantially.
In illuminating these ideas during the workshop, the Roundtable stimulated scientific discussion about the ongoing needs for responding to Hurricane Katrina. By capturing the discussions and presentations by the speakers and participants, we hope to continue to spark discussion on the larger health issues related to responding to a disaster, whether it is the result of natural hazards, such as a hurricane or earthquake; biologically induced, such as pandemic flu; or an intentional act. The workshop did not consist of lessons learned from the hurricane response, but instead looked at how up-to-date scientific information could aid the recovery process. This workshop summary also captures the areas identified by the speakers and participants for additional research and the processes by which changes can occur. The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the Institute of Medicine, the Roundtable, or their sponsors.
Paul G. Rogers, Chair
Roundtable on Environmental Health Sciences, Research, and Medicine