Resilience in Post-Katrina New Orleans, Louisiana: A Preliminary Study
Background: Much scholarly and practitioner attention to the impact of Hurricane Katrina on the city of New Orleans, Louisiana has focused on the failures of government disaster prevention and management at all levels, often overlooking the human strength and resourcefulness observed in individuals and groups among the worst-affected communities. Objectives: This preliminary study sought to investigate human resilience in the city of New Orleans, State of Louisiana, eighteen months after Hurricane Katrina struck the Mississippi delta region. Methods: The Sense of Coherence scale, short form (SOC-13) was administered to a sample of 41 residents of Lower Ninth Ward and adjacent Wards who had been displaced by Hurricane Katrina but were either living in or visiting their home area during March 2007. Study participants were recruited through the local branch of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), a nation-wide grassroots organization whose mission is to promote the housing rights of low and moderate-income
individuals and families across the USA and in several other countries.
Results: Those who had returned to their homes had significantly higher SOC scores compared to those who were still displaced (p<0.001). Among the latter, those who were members of ACORN scored significantly higher than non-members (p<0.005), and
their SOC-13 scores were not significantly different from the scores of study participants who had returned home (including both members and non-members of ACORN).
Conclusions: The findings of this preliminary study concur with previous reports in the literature on the deleterious impact of displacement on individual and collective resilience to disasters. Relevant insight gleaned from the qualitative data gathered during the course of administering the SOC-13 scale compensate for the limitations of the small sample size as they draw attention to the importance of the study participants\' sources of social support. Possible avenues for further research are outlined.
African Health Sciences Vol. 8 Special Edition 2008: pp. S21-S27