School Interventions After the Joplin Tornado
Background/Objective To qualitatively describe interventions by schools to meet children's needs after the May 2011 Joplin, Missouri tornado.
Qualitative exploratory study conducted six months after the tornado. Key informant interviews with school staff (teachers, psychologists, guidance counselor, nurse, principal), public health official, and physicians. Report After the tornado, school staff immediately worked to contact every enrolled child to provide assistance and coordinate recovery services. Despite severe damage to half of the city's schools, the decision was made to reopen schools at the earliest possible time to provide a safe, reassuring environment and additional services. An expanded summer school session emphasized child safety and emotional wellbeing. The 2011-2012 school year began on time, less than three months after the disaster, using temporary facilities. Displaced children were bused to their usual schools regardless of their new temporary residence locations. In just-in-time training sessions, teachers developed strategies to support students and staff experiencing anxiety or depression. Certified counselors conducted school-based, small-group counseling for students. Selective referrals were made to community mental health providers for children with greatest needs.
Evidence from Joplin adds to a small body of empirical experience demonstrating the important contribution of schools to postdisaster community recovery. Despite timely and proactive services, many families and children struggled after the tornado. Improvements in the effectiveness of postdisaster interventions at schools will follow from future scientific evidence on optimal approaches. Kanter RK , Abramson D . School interventions after the Joplin tornado. Prehosp Disaster Med. 2014;29(2):1-4 .
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ABSTRACT: In postdisaster settings, health care providers encounter secondary surges of unmet primary care and mental health needs that evolve throughout disaster recovery phases. Whatever a community’s predisaster adequacy of health care, postdisaster gaps are similar to those of any underserved region. We hypothesize that existing practice and evidence supporting medical homes and care coordination in primary care for the underserved provide a favorable model for improving health in disrupted communities. Elements of medical home services can be offered by local or temporary providers from outside the region, working out of mobile clinics early in disaster recovery. As repairs and reconstruction proceed, local services are restored over weeks or years. Throughout recovery, major tasks include identifying high-risk patients relative to the disaster and underlying health conditions, assisting displaced families as they transition through housing locations, and tracking their evolving access to health care and community services as they are restored. Postdisaster sources of financial assistance for the disaster-exposed population are often temporary and evolving, requiring up-to-date information to cover costs of care until stable services and insurance coverage are restored. Evidence to support disaster recovery health care improvement will require research funding and metrics on structures, processes, and outcomes of the disaster recovery medical home and care coordination, based on adaptation of standard validated methods to crisis environments. (
Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness.
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