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Updated 10:00 AM March 5, 2007




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U-M, partners, study Katrina's impact in Mississippi

Researchers from U-M, the University of Mississippi Medical Center and other partner institutions have started the process of surveying 800 adults who lived in south Mississippi when Hurricane Katrina hit.

Some of those to be interviewed have lost homes, friends or family members in the disaster; others may not feel they were directly affected. But researchers will interview everyone selected for the study in order to obtain results that accurately reflect the hurricane's impact on individuals and on communities.

"This study will help give us an idea about the need for services among people affected by the hurricane," says Sandro Galea, a researcher affiliated with the School of Public Health and the Institute for Social Research. "It will also help in planning for future hurricanes and other disasters."

The study is being funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Galea, an epidemiologist who has studied the psychological impact of terrorist attacks as well as natural disasters, is the principal investigator of the study. University of Mississippi Medical Center's Scott Coffey and Dartmouth Psychiatric Research Center's Fran Norris are co-principal investigators.

"Mississippi was one of the two states most severely ravaged by Hurricane Katrina," Galea says. "Over 200 people in coastal areas of the state died in this disaster, and tens of thousands lost their homes. It's vital that we understand exactly how people's lives have been affected and how their communities have influenced how people cope."

The study team began by contacting people who lived in the 23 southernmost counties in Mississippi at the time of Hurricane Katrina. They will interview a random sample of adults, including people who still live in the area and those who have moved away. Interviews, which will be conducted by phone and in person, are expected to continue through July.

The National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, part of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, also is collaborating on the study.

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