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School and Program Updates

School and Program Updates

Texas A&M Faculty Receives Funding from Both the National Academies and Homeland Security for Disaster Recovery Research

With more than 50 percent of the U.S. population living within 100 miles of coastal areas, disaster recovery is a daily concern for millions of Americans.

In an effort to improve planning and preparedness to enhance disaster resilience among individuals, communities and health systems in the U.S. Gulf Coast region, Dr. Jennifer Horney, associate professor at the Texas A&M School of Public Health, has been awarded a grant from The National Academies of Sciences Gulf Research Program.

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[Photo: Dr. Jennifer Horney]

Dr. Horney will lead a two-year study of the linkages between disaster exposure and subsequent health and health system outcomes across the Gulf of Mexico region. Dr. Horney, a disaster preparedness expert, has previously conducted research on multiple public health disasters including Hurricanes Charley, Isabel, Katrina, Wilma and Irene.

Specifically, the research team will conduct a large-scale evaluation of the effects of natural and technological disasters on the health status and health system use of those on Medicare living in coastal communities in the Gulf of Mexico region between 1999 and 2010. Through merging individual-level linked claims data with data from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Dr. Horney will create a single longitudinal data set that can be analyzed to better understand linkages between disaster exposure and subsequent health and health system outcomes across the Gulf Region.

The results of this study will assist in the development of interventions to enhance the resilience of individuals and communities, or the systems that serve them, to future disasters of a potentially different type and scale.

Dr. Horney along with Dr. Phil Berke, of the Texas A&M College of Architecture, has also received research funding for two projects they will jointly work on from the Coastal Resilience Center, a U.S. Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence located at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.

Dr. Berke will lead the research project analyzing relationships between networks of plans and neighborhood hazard vulnerability. As part of this project, public health plans will be collected and analyzed and appropriate indicators and metrics developed from these plans.

Dr. Horney will lead the transition of a web-based Disaster Recovery Tracking tool, www.trackyourrecovery.org, she helped develop following Hurricane Sandy, into a more widely adopted tool to track the progress and quality of post-disaster recovery across various types of disasters and over time. Data from the tool can be utilized by communities to develop better pre-disaster recovery plans, increasing resilience to future disasters.

“Our goal now is to refine the metrics and disseminate a highly useful web-based tool to federal, state, and local practice partners. The tool will be most valuable to end-users if we can allow them to focus on which indicators are the strongest, most valid, and most useful predictors of recovery, and support them with training, technical assistance, and user guides,” Dr. Horney said.

Both 2-year projects aim to further develop systematic ways of measuring the disaster recovery process across events and over time to improve planning for, and recovering from, disasters.

Dr. Horney Appointed to National Emergency Preparedness Committees

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation have appointed Dr. Horney to several national emergency preparedness advisory groups.

She serves on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate’s Science Advisory Guide for Emergencies. She also serves on the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Best Practices Workgroup developing special considerations for IRB review of disaster and emergency related public health research. She is part of the workgroup designing the National Health Security Preparedness Index for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.