Emergency response and public health in Hurricane Katrina: What does it mean to be a public health emergency responder?
Since 9/11, federal funds directed toward public health departments for training in disaster preparedness have dramatically increased, resulting in changing expectations of public health workers’ roles in emergency response. This article explores the public health emergency responder role through data collected as part of an oral history conducted with the 3 health departments that responded to Hurricane Katrina in Mississippi and Louisiana. The data reveals a significant change in public health emergency response capacity as a result of federal funding. The role is still evolving, and many challenges remain, in particular, a clear articulation of the public health role in emergency response, the integration of the public health and emergency responder cultures, identification of the scope of training needs and strategies to maintain new public health emergency response skills, and closer collaboration with emergency response agencies.