After Hurricane Maria in 2017, many Puerto Rican families relocated to the United States to seek refuge from their disaster-stricken homeland. The largest exodus was to South and Central Florida. These families were traumatized by the Category 4 storm, followed by the stress of an abrupt and unplanned relocation and then by experiences of discrimination and exclusion.
Dr. Seth Schwartz, professor of public health at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, will be co-principal investigator on a National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD)-funded study that will investigate the effects of hurricane-related stress and trauma on families and their adolescent children, such as alcohol misuse and mental health conditions. Dr. Schwartz and his team will also examine the effects of unplanned relocation and of culturally-related stress on youth and parent mental health and alcohol use.
“Our prior research tells us that there is an extreme mental health burden, and high rates of alcohol use, among post-Maria Puerto Ricans. There are tremendous unmet mental health needs in this population, and our goal is to identify and address those needs,” said Dr. Schwartz.
The study will recruit and follow 500 post-Maria Puerto Rican families with adolescents and follow them for three years and six assessment points. Youth and caregivers will complete measures of hurricane-related trauma, stress related to relocating to Florida, experiences of discrimination and exclusion, family relationships, mental health symptoms, and alcohol use. Information gathered from the study will be shared with our community advisory board and used to develop interventions to help Puerto Rican Hurricane Maria survivors in Florida.Friday Letter Submission, Publish on August 30