In an effort to determine the long-term effects of Sandy on the health and well-being of New Jersey residents, the state Department of Health is backing a study that will be conducted by a joint research team from Rutgers and Columbia universities.

NJ Beach Town Devastated By Hurricane Sandy Tears Down Storm-Damaged Homes
Mark Wilson, Getty Images

The Sandy Child and Family Health Study will be one of the largest disaster recovery projects and assessments in the region. Starting Friday, researchers will span nine counties and begin interviewing 1,000 scientifically selected families, a process which is also expected to shed some light on what has helped or hindered people in their ongoing recovery.

"This is an important project for ongoing work to give voice to the people of New Jersey to talk about some of the longer-term impacts on families and communities," said Rutgers University's Patricia Findley, associate professor, in a press release Monday. "We hear their stories, now we can systematically document their ongoing needs so we can inform policy makers, government leaders, and communities in making decisions to support continued recovery, as well as to plan effectively for future disasters. "

"We want to know how people are doing now and what their current needs are, but more importantly, we want to know how well they are recovering and what helped facilitate their recovery and what helped impede it," said David Abramson, deputy director of Columbia University's National Center for Disaster Preparedness. "We'll be asking questions about the impact of the storm, the kind of harm they may have experienced, what kind of income effects there were. We're going to look at their evacuation decisions, their recovery decisions, where they've lived since the storm and the kind of health effects they or their children may have experienced."

The primary objectives of the data collection will be to:

  • document the immediate and ongoing physical and mental health needs of populations, including children;
  • chronicle their recovery and housing transitions;
  • analyze the types of services that people needed and received, and to identify patterns of current unmet needs or service gaps; and
  • document the pathways to recovery experienced by diverse populations.

"What we have seen too often after these catastrophic events is that long-term recovery doesn't make the news," Abramson said. "It's not even clear to policymakers and providers what people need in order to recover, much less how well they are doing. This study will provide that picture to New Jersey communities and officials. It can help build an evidence base for disaster recovery that is effective and targeted."

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