Many Children Displaced After Gulf Coast Hurricanes Facing Health Problems

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Many of the children displaced after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita have serious mental and other health conditions, according to a report released on Monday by the Children's Health Fund, USA Today reports (Jervis, USA Today, 11/24). An estimated 163,000 children were displaced after the Gulf Coast storms of 2005, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. More than half of the children were from Louisiana, mostly from New Orleans Parish, and they also were disproportionately black and poor, the New York Daily News reports.

The study, led by Irwin Redlener, a professor at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health and director of the university's National Center for Disaster Preparedness, examined medical data of 261 children who had lived for several years in government-issued trailers after the hurricanes. The trailers later were found to have high levels of formaldehyde (Kennedy, New York Daily News, 11/23). The children received treatment from a Children's Health Fund mobile medical clinic in Baton Rouge (USA Today, 11/24).

According to the study:

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* 41% of children treated at the clinic who were younger than age four had iron deficiency anemia;
* 42% had a respiratory allergy or infection;
* One-third of the children had impaired hearing or vision (Kennedy, New York Daily News, 11/23);
* 55% of elementary-school-aged children had a behavior or learning problem;
* 42% of had hay fever, and/or upper respiratory infections; and
* 24% had a cluster of upper respiratory, allergic and skin ailments.

Heidi Sinclair, a Baton Rouge pediatrician who helped run the Children's Health Fund clinic in the city, said the iron deficiency readings were so consistently high when testing, she thought the machines were malfunctioning.

Redlener said that the children included in the study are mostly likely among the sickest of the estimated 30,000 children living in trailers and temporary housing along the Gulf Coast. He said that many other displaced children could be experiencing the same health problems (USA Today, 11/24).

He recommended that a "child health task force" be created to track and monitor the health of displaced children in order to provide them with needed medical care (New York Daily News, 11/23).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. © 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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