Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Upcoming COCA Call: Understanding The Mental Health Impact Of Hurricane Sandy





Although the United States has enjoyed a 10 year drought of major landfalling hurricanes (CAT 3+), Hurricane Sandy in 2012 proved unusually destructive because it hit a highly vulnerable, densely populated region of the the Mid-Atlantic coastline. 


Heavily impacted were both New York and New Jersey, where hundreds of thousands of people incurred heavy losses and found their lives and livelihoods disrupted for weeks.

Twelve months after the storm, in Sandy 1 Year Later: Coping With The Aftermath we looked at some of the mental health issues in the wake of that disaster. In the past, we’ve looked at other post-disaster health impacts, such as in Post Disaster Stress & Suicide RatesThe Long Term Effects Of A Major Disaster).


In the wake of 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, a study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, which surveyed 1,043 survivors, found:


  • More than 11% were diagnosed with a serious mental illness following the storm. This compares to just over 6% before the hurricane.
  • 9.9% had mild-moderate mental illness, compared to 9.7% before Katrina.
  • They estimated  200,000 people facing serious mental problems, such as PTSS (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome) and depression, in the three states most affected.


On Thursday of this week, the CDC will host a COCA call on the psychological aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.  While primarily of interest to clinicians and healthcare providers, COCA (Clinician Outreach Communication Activity) calls are designed to ensure that practitioners have up-to-date information for their practices.


First the details, then I’ll return with a bit more:


Weathering the Storm — Understanding the Mental Health Impact of Hurricane Sandy

Image of Continuing Education Credits abbreviation. = Free Continuing Education

Date: Thursday, September 17, 2015

Time: 2:00 - 3:00 pm (Eastern Time)

Join by Phone:

  • 888-469-1370 (U.S. Callers)
  • 517-308-9218 (International Callers)

Passcode: 3791890

Join by Webinar: https://www.mymeetings.com/nc/join.php?i=PW5219511&p=3791890&t=c



Hussain Yusuf, MD, MPH
Extramural Research Program Office
Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention



Emanuela Taioli MD PhD
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
New York

Charon Gwynn, PhD
Deputy Commissioner
Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
New York City



Hurricane Sandy was an unprecedented natural disaster that resulted in deaths, injuries, and other disaster-related health effects. A substantial number of people exposed to the storm experienced mental health problems to include, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and serious psychological distress. Research conducted by Project LIGHT, a collaborative effort between Mount Sinai, North Shore-LIJ and the Nassau County Department of Human Services, and the New York City Health Department examined mental health effects of the storm and identified subgroups of individuals who were most vulnerable to the hurricane mental health effects. The research was conducted through the application of multiple methodologies including the collection of survey data from residents of affected areas as well as analysis of Emergency Department data. During the COCA Call, participants will learn about a natural disaster related epidemiologic studies focusing on mental health issues. Participants will also hear about the implications of these findings on disaster preparedness and response activities and how clinicians can help address mental health among those impacted by disasters.



  • Discuss the vulnerability factors to mental health issues after Hurricane Sandy
  • Describe how administrative data from Emergency Department can be utilized for public health purposes
  • Describe the groups who were most at risk for mental health issues after the storm
  • Describe how local disaster preparedness and response activities can address the mental health needs of residents who are impacted by disasters

Additional Resources

Call Format

  • Audio conference call on 9/17/15: 2:00 - 3:00 PM
  • Web-on-demand training after 3:00 PM on 9/17/15
  • Materials: PowerPoint slide set


September is National Preparedness Month, and while I’ll discuss the importance of psychological first aid in another #Natlprep post,  I did want to mention that preparedness for emergencies can go a long ways towards reducing  the emotional and physical impact of a disaster like hurricane Sandy.


Those that follow FEMA’s, and Ready.gov’s advice to Have A Plan, Make A Kit, and Be informed are likely to find their experience to be less traumatic than those who were unprepared.


You can do a search on #NatlPrep in AFD for this year’s preparedness blogs, or visit the following sites for more information on how to prepare.


FEMA http://www.fema.gov/index.shtm

READY.GOV http://www.ready.gov/

AMERICAN RED CROSS http://www.redcross.org/

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