University at Albany

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By Michael Parker (January 7, 2008)

Life Experience: Life Experience: School of Public Health - Learning While Helping

UAlbany School of Public Health Students in New Orleans

School of Public Health students help Hurricane Katrina survivors rebuild their New Orleans homes in January 2007. (Photo courtesy of the School of Public Health)

Hurricane Katrina was one of the deadliest hurricanes in U.S. history. Though much has been done to repair the damage exacted on New Orleans, given the condition of some of the shattered city's worst-hit neighborhoods, the 2005 disaster might as well have happened yesterday.

For the third year in a row, UAlbany School of Public Health students are taking their winter break in New Orleans to learn about the city's public health efforts and to help those affected rebuild their homes. The 19 students, accompanied by faculty members, gain first-hand experience of the public health toll, both physical and mental, that Hurricane Katrina has had on the city, creating an experience that is part job training, part a mission of compassion.

One of the first tasks they'll undertake will be to conduct a public health survey to assess the ability of people to access health and medical services in the poorest neighborhoods, two and a half years after the hurricane struck. They will also pitch in on community rebuilding projects, including removing moldy wallboard and ceiling tiles from homes that can be reconstructed to volunteering at soup kitchens.

"This is my first year at the UAlbany School of Public Health, and the chance to volunteer this winter is a great learning opportunity."
-Theresa Creten
"I'm happy to have the chance to help out a community that is still rebuilding over two years after Hurricane Katrina hit," said Theresa Creten, a graduate student from Hadley, NY. "This is my first year at the UAlbany School of Public Health, and the chance to volunteer this winter is a great learning opportunity."

"Public health students study the full range of factors that impact human health: the environment, biomedical conditions, government policies, and the choices people make that can lead to better health or to illness and disability," said Carol Whittaker, assistant dean for Global Public Health. "The health of the community is public health's goal. When any community is in peril, public health's job is to step in and resolve the problems."

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