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Public Health Rep. 2008 Sep-Oct; 123(5): 555–566.
PMCID: PMC2496928
Disaster Mythology and Fact: Hurricane Katrina and Social Attachment
Binu Jacob, MPH,a Anthony R. Mawson, MA, DrPH,b Marinelle Payton, MD, PhD, MS, MPH,c and John C. Guignard, MB, ChB [Edin], FErgSd
aCenter for Health Protection, Arkansas Department of Health, Little Rock, AR
bDivision of Genetics and Epidemiology, Department of Pediatrics, University of Mississippi Medical Center, Jackson, MS
cCollege of Public Service, Jackson State University, Jackson, MS
dGuignard Biodynamics, Metairie, LA
Address correspondence to: Anthony R. Mawson, MA, DrPH, Division of Genetics and Epidemiology, Department of Pediatrics, University of Mississippi Medical Center, 2500 North State St., Jackson, MS 39216-4505, Phone: 601-984-1927, Fax: 601-984-1924, ; amawson/at/
Misconceptions about disasters and their social and health consequences remain prevalent despite considerable research evidence to the contrary. Eight such myths and their factual counterparts were reviewed in a classic report on the public health impact of disasters by Claude de Ville de Goyet entitled, The Role of WHO in Disaster Management: Relief, Rehabilitation, and Reconstruction (Geneva, World Health Organization, 1991), and two additional myths and facts were added by Pan American Health Organization.
In this article, we reconsider these myths and facts in relation to Hurricane Katrina, with particular emphasis on psychosocial needs and behaviors, based on data gleaned from scientific sources as well as printed and electronic media reports. The review suggests that preparedness plans for disasters involving forced mass evacuation and resettlement should place a high priority on keeping families together—and even entire neighborhoods, where possible—so as to preserve the familiar and thereby minimize the adverse effects of separation and major dislocation on mental and physical health.
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