This pilot study aimed to assess the community needs and population health status for the low-income town of Punta Santiago, situated on the southeastern coast of Puerto Rico at the point where Hurricane Maria made landfall on September 20, 2017.
A cross-sectional, interviewer-administered survey was conducted 6 months after the storm with a representative random sample of 74 households. The survey characterized population demographics and resident needs in relation to storm damage and disruption. The survey also assessed prevalence and symptom severity of major depression, generalized anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder.
Most of Punta Santiago was without electrical power and more than half of households sustained severe damage. Residents reported loss of jobs, decreased productivity, school closures, dependency on aid for basic necessities, increased risk for vector-borne diseases, unrelenting exposure to heat and humidity, and diminished health status. Two-thirds (66.2%) of the respondents had clinically significant symptom elevations for at least 1 of the 3 common mental disorders assessed: major depression, generalized anxiety, or posttraumatic stress disorder.
Pilot survey results, along with other studies conducted in Punta Santiago, can be used to provide guidance for interventions with this community as well as with other low-income, storm-affected areas. (Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2019;13:18–23)
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