Rapid Community Participatory Assessment of Health Care in Post-Storm New Orleans

Published In: American Journal of Preventive Medicine, v. 37, no. 6, Suppl. 1, Dec. 2009, p. S237-S243

Posted on RAND.org on December 01, 2009

by Benjamin Springgate, Charles Allen, Catherine Jones, Shaula Lovera, Diana Meyers, Larry Campbell, Lawrence Palinkas, Kenneth B. Wells

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BACKGROUND: Hurricane Katrina and levee failures disrupted healthcare access for hundreds of thousands of New Orleans residents. Few models exist to explain community stakeholders' priorities for post-disaster recovery while building capacity for response. This project engaged community stakeholders in a rapid, participatory assessment of health priorities 1 year post-disaster, to inform the policy process and build capacity for recovery planning among community members METHODS: This project combined community-based participatory research methods and rapid assessment procedures to engage diverse community members in design, conduct, data interpretation, and dissemination of results. Thirty stakeholders in the health and healthcare fields were interviewed in Summer 2006, and four grassroots community discussion groups were held in New Orleans neighborhoods to assess perceptions of the disaster's impacts on healthcare access. Interview transcripts were reviewed in Summer 2006, and themes were elicited using methods rooted in grounded theory. Findings were shared at a public community feedback conference, and recovery-relevant community action steps were set in motion. RESULTS: Three main themes emerged from the data: (1) healthcare access challenges; (2) unmet needs of specific vulnerable populations; (3) opportunities, resources, and community adaptations to improve healthcare access. CONCLUSIONS: This rapid, community-based participatory assessment provided new information on diverse community members' concerns and priorities, and it produced a sustainable community-academic partnership dedicated to improving both access to care and the public's health following this major disaster.

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