Hurricane Sandy Recovery Science Brings Mailman School Together

January 8, 2014

How can Hurricane Sandy’s impact on the healthcare system inform future disaster planning and responses? Can research on this cataclysmic disaster help us to better integrate organizations, agencies, or services across the healthcare, public health, and emergency response systems? How do we better communicate with different cultural groups and communities before, during and after a disaster?

These were just a few of the questions on best practices tackled by a joint Hurricane Sandy meeting on January 7th. The meeting convened with the U.S. Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, representatives from the CDC and NIEHS, and principal investigators on Sandy recovery projects including the NIH’s Disaster Research Response Project. The Mailman School of Public Health hosted this first meeting as New York City was one of the communities most deeply affected by Sandy and home base to several research award recipients and partners. 

The conference, a model for the larger disaster response community, brought together a network of federal government experts, practitioners and researchers. Speakers and participants included Assistant Secretary Nicole Lurie, MD, MSPH from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as well as representatives from the CDC’s Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response; and the NIEHS’s Division of Extramural Research and Training who found the conference a rare opportunity to break the research mold and pursue a collaborative science approach.
Stressing the need for the public health community to play an active role in the disaster response effort, Dr. Gwen Collman of NIEHS noted that while participation by the full spectrum of practitioners and researchers within the community of public health is new, and may be challenging, it is essential for addressing head-on the need to work collaboratively to accomplish shared goals. In her welcoming remarks, Dean Linda Fried reinforced the role of schools of public health as central for creating the knowledge base for public health practices to ensure our collective future. 

In keeping with an all-encompassing approach for partnership, participants were asked to share personal Sandy stories and encouraged to meet and relay details of projects and data findings to inform the Sandy recovery process.

Serving as panel moderators were deputy directors from HHS and deputy commissioners from New York State and New York City Departments of Health. Panelists included Mailman School research grantees
Drs. Sandro Galea, Pam Factor-Litvak, and Matthew Perzanowski, whose projects include community efforts to promote resilience; mitigating effects of psychological stress among pregnant women after a major natural disaster; and fungal exposure in NYC homes damaged by Hurricane Sandy and respiratory outcomes in asthmatic children.

Participating principal investigators have received research awards from Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, the CDC, and NIEHS under funding opportunities FOAEP-HIT-13-001 (ASPR), FOA TP13-001 (CDC), FOA OH13-001 )CDC/NIOSH), and RFA ES-13-008 (NIEHS).