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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

Maryland: Study Finds Excess Deaths in Puerto Rico from Heart Disease, Other Causes Following Hurricane Maria

New research from the University of Maryland School of Public Health published in the American Journal of Public Health estimates that Hurricane Maria led to 1,205 excess deaths in Puerto Rico in September and October 2017.

The researchers identified heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease as the top causes of excess deaths, most likely due to a lack of available treatment after the storm, which made landfall September 20. The excess deaths occurred almost entirely among residents 60 and over and affected more men than women.

The study used time-series modeling of vital statistics data from January 2008 to October 2017  to compare actual deaths to the expected number, accounting for secular trends, seasonal mortality patterns and changes in population denominators. The researchers then analyzed those excess deaths by age, sex and cause of death.

While previous studies have used time-series analysis to estimate the total number of excess deaths, this study is the first to use the method to analyze excess deaths in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria by cause of death, the authors write.

The study’s results can help authorities assess the effect of the disaster on the island, allocate resources for its recovery and prepare for future disasters, the authors write.

The study was led by Dr. Raul Cruz-Cano, an associate research professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Maryland School of Public Health, whose research focuses on biostatistics, computational statistics, data analysis and bioinformatics. Co-author Dr. Erin L. Mead is an instructor of medicine at UConn Health.

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