Each year, the United States experiences approximately 60 presidentially-declared major disasters, and billions of dollars are spent on recovery.
We believe these disasters should serve as a vivid call to action for health and social service professionals to work collaboratively with other key stakeholders to ensure that their communities have engaged in the disaster planning necessary to mitigate health challenges, respond to the immediate effects, and — too often overlooked — prepare for the longer-term recovery and rebuilding efforts required for infrastructure to support the health and welfare of all community members.
It is disappointing that despite the billions of dollars associated with disaster recovery, the goal of using these resources to rebuild communities that are healthier than they were prior to the disaster is not often realized.
Regrettably, most U.S. communities are not as healthy as they could be. It is disappointing that despite the billions of dollars associated with disaster recovery, the goal of using these resources to rebuild communities that are healthier than they were prior to the disaster is not often realized.
For instance, the post-Katrina Columbia Parc at the Bayou District Initiative, in partnership with the Bayou Health District Foundation in New Orleans, Louisiana created a collaboration between private-sector innovators in construction of low-income housing and public health and clinical leaders to develop a health-enhancing community environment that includes recreation space, access to healthy foods, and case-management services, among other key amenities.
Restoring communities to their preexisting status after disasters is almost always short-sighted. After disasters, the rebuilding opportunity can be used to create the conditions necessary for the best achievable health of communities.