Child mortality after Hurricane Katrina

Disaster Med Public Health Prep. 2010 Mar;4(1):62-5. doi: 10.1017/s1935789300002433.


Background: Age-specific pediatric health consequences of community disruption after Hurricane Katrina have not been analyzed. Post-Katrina vital statistics are unavailable. The objectives of this study were to validate an alternative method to estimate child mortality rates in the greater New Orleans area and compare pre-Katrina and post-Katrina mortality rates.

Methods: Pre-Katrina 2004 child mortality was estimated from death reports in the local daily newspaper and validated by comparison with pre-Katrina data from the Louisiana Department of Health. Post-Katrina child mortality rates were analyzed as a measure of health consequences.

Results: Newspaper-derived estimates of mortality rates appear to be valid except for possible underreporting of neonatal rates. Pre-Katrina and post-Katrina mortality rates were similar for all age groups except infants. Post-Katrina, a 92% decline in mortality rate occurred for neonates (<28 days), and a 57% decline in mortality rate occurred for postneonatal infants (28 days-1 year). The post-Katrina decline in infant mortality rate exceeds the pre-Katrina discrepancy between newspaper-derived and Department of Health-reported rates.

Conclusions: A declining infant mortality rate raises questions about persistent displacement of high-risk infants out of the region. Otherwise, there is no evidence of long-lasting post-Katrina excess child mortality. Further investigation of demographic changes would be of interest to local decision makers and planners for recovery after public health emergencies in other regions.

Publication types

  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Cause of Death
  • Child
  • Child Mortality / trends*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cyclonic Storms / mortality*
  • Disasters*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • New Orleans
  • Newspapers as Topic
  • Population Surveillance / methods*