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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Modeling Community Resilience

Community Factors that Promoted Resilience in the Aftermath of Hurricane Sandy

Applicant Institution: Columbia University

Researchers at Columbia University investigated the characteristics of communities that promote post-disaster resilience.  They also examined how community and individual characteristics interact in shaping post-disaster outcomes. They found that communities with fewer people living alone had higher rates of post-traumatic stress, and that people who had experienced or witnessed another traumatic event in addition to Hurricane Sandy had greater rates of post-traumatic stress and depression. In addition, the researchers found that there is wide geographic variation in risk factors. For example, being a parent is a vulnerability factor in Brooklyn, but a resilience factor in the Bronx. Data and results from this study can also help to identify Sandy-affected communities - and individuals within communities - that continue to have mental health needs.

Learn more about this project in the following publications:

Lowe SR, Sampson L, Gruebner O & Galea S. (2015). Psychological Resilience After Hurricane Sandy: The Influence of Individual– and Community-level Factors on Mental Health After a Large-Scale Natural Disaster. PLoS One, 10(5): e)125761. PMID: 25962178.
Gruebner O, Lowe SR, Sampson L & Galea S. (2015). The Geography of Post-Disaster Mental Health: Spatial Patterning of Psychological Vulnerability and Resilience Factors in New York City After Hurricane Sandy. International Journal of Health Geographics, 14(1):16. PMID: 25889102.
Lowe SR, Sampson L, Gruebner O & Galea S. (2015). Mental Health Service Need and Use in the Aftermath of Hurricane Sandy: Findings in a Population-Based Sample of New York City Residents. Community Mental Health Journal, 26 Sept 2015 [Epub ahead of print]. PMID: 26410217.

This project was funded by the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response.


Promoting Community Resilience in New York City After Hurricane Sandy: A Model-Based Approach 

Applicant Institution: University of Delaware

Researchers working on this project developed a conceptual and corresponding computational model to help New York City policymakers decide how to allocate resources to make the city more resilient in the face of a disaster. The model is based on a theory of community functioning.  It examines what characteristics of a community (social, physical, economic, political, etc.) might predict a community’s experience with a disaster; how much loss of function the community experiences; and how long it might take for the community to recover. The model has been presented to policymakers at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. 

This project was funded by the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response.


Social Capital and Resilience of Older People Exposed to Hurricane Sandy 

Applicant Institution: Rowan University

This project identified aspects of neighborhood social connectedness (social capital) that promoted resilience of older adults exposed to Hurricane Sandy. The results indicated that older adults who reported stronger neighborhood connections also reported fewer depressive symptoms after Hurricane Sandy. Although neighbors helped to mitigate feelings of physical danger during the hurricane, they played a less central role when homes were damaged. People who developed PTSD after Hurricane Sandy had fewer social connections before the hurricane. The findings of this study provide new information about how the neighborhoods in which older people live can be bolstered to provide support in the face of natural disasters. Such interventions will enhance the quality of life of older people, reduce health care costs, and minimize the damage caused by natural disasters. 

Learn more about this project in the following publication:

Heid AR, Pruchno R, Cartwright FP & Wilson-Genderson M. (2016). Exposure to Hurricane Sandy, neighborhoodcollective efficacy, and post-traumatic stress symptoms in older adults. Aging & Mental Health, 25 Feb 2016 [Epub ahead of print]. PMID: 26911314.

This project was funded by the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response.


The Influence of Disaster Recovery Partnerships on Mental Health in New York City Communities Affected by Hurricane Sandy 

Applicant Institution: Boston University and RAND Corporation

This research is ongoing. The project will investigate how disaster recovery partnership characteristics influenced mental health outcomes, and develop agent-based models that assess how changes in partnership characteristics may mitigate the mental health consequences of disasters.

This project was fundedby the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response.

  • This page last reviewed: March 10, 2016