Preparing for hurricanes in Puerto Rico

In May 2018, a team from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health estimated that the death toll in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of last September’s powerful Hurricane Maria was between 800 and 8,500, with many of the deaths attributed to delayed or interrupted medical care. To prepare for future storms, one of the study authors is emphasizing the need for community preparedness and resilience with a focus on medically vulnerable populations.

In an August 3, 2018 NPR interview, Satchit Balsari, research fellow at Harvard Chan School, noted that many Hurricane Maria-related deaths resulted not from the storm itself but from interrupted medical care afterwards—such as running out of medications, inability to use respiratory equipment because of lack of electricity, lack of access to water, or inability to reach clinics for dialysis or wound care.

“It is important to understand how many people died because you want to be able to quantify the impact,” Balsari said. “You want to know not only how many people died but what they died from so that preparedness efforts can be directed towards mitigating the factors that caused those deaths.”

Listen to or read the NPR interview: Harvard Research Fellow Estimates Puerto Rico’s Death Toll Following Hurricane Maria

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Restoring access to clean water a priority for hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico (Harvard Chan School feature)