New Hurricane Katrina survivor initiative to guide policy

Beginning Jan. 10, Harvard Medical School, through a $1 million grant by the National Institute of Mental Health, will begin recruiting a statistically representative sample of 2,000 survivors of Hurricane Katrina to serve in the Hurricane Katrina Community Advisory Group. Group members will provide personal health and needs assessment information to help inform public policy. One thousand members of the advisory group will be from the New Orleans area, while the other thousand will be from other affected regions. The recruitment will be national in scope, as many survivors are now in different parts of the country. Results from the first survey of the Advisory Group will be available at the end of February 2006 and will be updated every three months after that for two years.

"This initiative is a unique opportunity to help policy makers monitor the unmet needs of people whose lives were, and may continue to be, severely impacted by this unprecedented disaster," said Ronald Kessler, PhD, Harvard Medical School professor of health care policy and director of the Hurricane Katrina Community Advisory Group Initiative. "Following 9/11, policy makers have wanted to have just this kind of assessment tool to guide policy. This initiative is the result of much discussion and modeling on how to reach survivors of disasters, and is the first attempt to provide actionable information through an advisory group model."

"The process of assembling the Advisory Group will begin on Tuesday, Jan. 10, with phone calls made to a random sample of tens of thousands of phone numbers across the country," said Kessler. People who lived in counties or parishes eligible for individual assistance as determined by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are considered eligible to participate in the Advisory Group.

The Hurricane Katrina Community Advisory Group will provide ongoing information to estimate the pace of recovery of the more than 2 million families who

Contact: John Lacey & Leah Gourley
Harvard Medical School

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