FIU team to study the impact of Hurricane Maria on Puerto Rico’s health care system

In September of 2017, Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, leaving loss, pain and destruction in its wake. It also led to the collapse of Puerto Rico’s health care system.

This massive collapse in health care services and technology is thought to have significantly impacted the lives of many Puerto Ricans who survived the hurricane but still needed medical attention to treat chronic illnesses such as diabetes, cancer and HIV/AIDS.

To learn more about this topic, the National Institutes of Health has awarded three FIU researchers, all housed within the Department of Global and Sociocultural Studies at theSteven J. Green School of International and Public Affairs, a $423,555 grant. The team is made up of professors Mark PadillaNelson Varas-Diaz and Kevin Grove.

“This research is of critical importance because it will be the first to examine system-wide effects of the recent hurricanes on Puerto Rico’s health care system,” says Padilla. “There has been much misinformation and confusion about the impact Hurricane Maria had on morbidity and mortality in Puerto Rico, and much of this has been based on political posturing rather than science. This research will help to remedy this through a systematic study of all levels of the health care system.”

The FIU team will collaborate closely with fellow researcher Sheilla Rodriguez-Madera at the University of Puerto Rico’s School of Public Health and will receive support from Puerto Rico’s Senate.

The researchers will be conducting on-site observations and detailed interviews with health care representatives, policy makers and patients to explore which components of the health care system failed to respond adequately and which factors facilitated resilience within the health care system.

The team also will analyze and describe how patients living with chronic health conditions who need life-sustaining treatment managed their health without regular access to care following the hurricane.

The grant, called “A Multi-Level Health System Study of Collapse and Resilience in Puerto Rico’s Response to Hurricane Maria,” will be administered through the Green School’s Kimberly Green Latin American and Caribbean Center – which recently earned designation as a Title VI National Resource Center on Latin America and the Caribbean.