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Opinion Piece: "Sow the Wind, Reap the Whirlwind: Katrina 15 Years After"

The American Journal of Public Health published a commentary by Dr. Robert Kim-Farley, professor of epidemiology and community health sciences, in the Journal's October edition about the public health "lessons learned" from Hurricane Katrina.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

“For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind” (Hosea 8:7) warns us that we should anticipate suffering serious consequences as the outcome of our own bad actions or negligence. However, there is also the parable of the positive aspect of sowing, whereby good acts can lead to betterment: “For whatever a man sows, this he will also reap” (Galatians 6:7). Both parables have something to offer in the “lessons learned” from that fateful August in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina devastated areas of Louisiana and Mississippi and now, some 15 years after, when natural disasters have become the “new normal” in public health.

This special section of the AJPH, “Katrina 15 Years After,” provides manifold examples of actions (or inactions) that led to amplification of the natural disaster as well as good acts that have led to increased resilience and preparedness. The historical and empirical evidence presented in this special section highlights the lessons learned that can be directly useful for public health policy, intervention, and practice to mitigate the dire consequences of hurricanes, wildfires, and other natural disasters.

Previous AJPH editorials, “Public Health Disasters: Be Prepared,” which outlines the dilemma public health emergency preparedness professionals and societies face in paying the price for preparedness, and “Medical Countermeasures: A Stitch in Time Saves Nine,” which notes the competing choices to be made among priorities, help our thinking with respect to preventing untoward things from occurring in the first place (primary prevention) and preventing things that do occur from becoming even more serious (secondary prevention).