Detail from "the second line," a painting by Bob Graham. For more about the artist, click here.

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Tracing in the Aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita

*Marjorie Hinsdale-Shouse, RTI International 
Lisa Thalji, RTI International 

Keywords: tracing, locating, hard-to-reach populations, Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Rita

Reminders of the devastating effects of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita on the lives of residents of the Gulf Coast are still evident after six years of clean-up and rebuilding. During the time since the hurricanes, residents have continued to move – sometimes away from their homes in 2005 and sometimes back to the same location after rebuilding. These continuous moves affect the ability of researchers to find and track this population. For the Children’s Health after the Storms (CHATS) study, which is an environmental and epidemiologic study of Gulf Coast children who experienced Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, this meant that the tracing plan had to be robust. Under the direction of the CDC, RTI International is implementing the initial phase of the study—a two-year feasibility study beginning in 2011. CHATS will follow children affected by the hurricanes (exposed) and children who were not affected (unexposed). The Feasibility Study will assess the viability of identifying, locating and gaining the cooperation of sample members. Once the cohorts were identified and the sample selected, the next critical step was to begin tracing.

This paper explores the effectiveness of the tracing plans, which combine advance mailings, batch tracing, interactive tracing, and field tracing to locate both cohorts. The primary focus is on the exposed cohort, which was selected from FEMA records. We will explore differences between the tracing outcomes across 3,876 cases randomly selected from six Parishes in Louisiana and three counties in Mississippi. We will map the move patterns of the exposed cohort including the original pre-Katrina address, the last known address at the time the FEMA trailer was released and the current address. We will also examine the success of specific tracing strategies and document the challenging reality of implementing a study years after a devastating event like Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

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