Katrina, Ida, the COVID-19 pandemic and Influenza

Our thoughts and prayers go out to ABC members and everyone in the Gulf Coast region and other states who are and will be impacted by Hurricane Ida and its aftermath in the coming days. As members and others are asked to help and heal those seeking care and assistance, please know you have the support of your ABC family.

Message from a Deep New Orleans Native
Katrina, Ida, the COVID-19 pandemic and Influenza

Special message from Keith C. Ferdinand, MD, FACC, FAHA, FASH, FNLA, Chair, ABC Access to Care Initiative

On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf South as the worst natural/unnatural disaster in the last 100 years. My family and too many others lost everything material and over 1500 people died from the storm and subsequent flood. Unrecognized, many, many more New Orleanians and others in this area perished during the long, extended sojourns across the South and nationally to escape the ravages of Katrina. Yesterday, August 29, 2021, Hurricane Ida hit the same area, but fortunately, the degree of destruction and death has been much less.

New Orleans is a special place in the history of the African diaspora, founded by the French over 300 years ago, but built predominately by enslaved African people and free men of color, including those from the Caribbean. This northernmost Caribbean city has been a longtime source of African-influenced architecture, food, art, and music.

The Association of Black Cardiologists (ABC) and its members were sources of strength, inspiration, and support for my family and so many others who survived Katrina. The ABC Hurricane Katrina Project HOPE in 2005 offered relief and actually funded the initiation of primary care services with a major grant as the first clinic to open in New Orleans post-Katrina.

This message links Katrina, Ida, the COVID-19 pandemic, and influenza. We as cardiologists, especially those concerned with the welfare of the Black population and other communities of color, must recognize that so-called natural disasters and infectious disease outbreaks disproportionately affect disadvantaged populations. Therefore, it is not enough for us to simply apply technical interventions to individual patients, but also become community activists, public health advocates, and trusted voices. In New Orleans, our Healthy Heart Community Prevention Project had for several years integrated into our outreach, not only blood pressure screening, cholesterol, and diabetes, but most recently immunization: first for influenza and then COVID-19.

The vaccine hesitancy and mistrust of medicine in the black community and other minority populations is real and understandable. Nevertheless, we must lead our patients on how to best access optimal care.

Environmental calamities and infectious disease outbreaks will continue to hit the world, including the United States, with fires in the West, hurricanes, and floods in the South and East, and massive snowstorms in the Midwest and North. ABC must and will continue to lead in helping our patients and the general community overcome the damaging effects of climate change as well as this pandemic and others to come. The same patients we treat for cardiovascular diseases are older persons and those who have multiple co-morbid conditions that disproportionately affect Black populations and other people of color. I am sure ABC will remain a leading voice for the people, regardless of the cause of the morbidity and mortality.

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