Children & Disasters

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Children and youth represent a quarter of our population. They are strong and resilient in the face of disasters, often adapting to stresses that weaken most adults, and yet they are also incredibly vulnerable. Young children, in particular, are completely dependent upon many systems in their lives for their survival: their parents, their broader families and communities, the institutions and organizations that care for them and teach them, and the officials and policy-makers who shape their environment. NCDP focuses on the outcomes for children when these systems are disrupted during a disaster.

Zack WilkersonIn one of NCDP’s sentinel studies, the Gulf Coast Child & Family Health Study (a five-year study of 1,079 households in Louisiana and Mississippi post-Katrina), we explored the notion that children are “bellwethers of recovery.” If the many personal and institutional systems around them are fully-functioning, the children will be physically and mentally healthier. If these systems are in disarray, children generally suffer the consequences.

NCDP’s research addresses children and disasters in a number of unique and innovative ways – we have developed longitudinal cohorts after Katrina and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to follow the trajectory of children’s recovery; we have hosted a conference on Children as Targets of Terror; we have convened subject matter experts in a series of Pediatric Consensus Conferences to explore and ratify standards of pediatric disaster care; and we have studied pediatric care in the aftermath of the devastating tornados in Joplin, Missouri and Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

NCDP maintains a strong working partnership with the Children’s Health Fund, a national organization that supports pediatric care for underserved children. NCDP’s director and founder, Dr. Irwin Redlener, is a pediatrician and national children’s health expert who co-founded the Children’s Health Fund with singer-songwriter Paul Simon in 1987. He has also recently served as one of ten members of the National Commission on Children and Disasters, appointed by Congress and the President.


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