Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness

Ursula Lauper, Jian-Hua Chen and Shao Lin*

Abstract: Studies have documented the impact that hurricanes have on mental health and injury rates before, during, and after the event. Since timely tracking of these disease patterns is crucial to disaster planning, response, and recovery, syndromic surveillance keyword filters were developed by the New York State Department of Health to study the short- and long-term impacts of Hurricane Sandy. Emergency department syndromic surveillance is recognized as a valuable tool for informing public health activities during and immediately following a disaster. Data typically consist of daily visit reports from hospital emergency departments (EDs) of basic patient data and free-text chief complaints. To develop keyword lists, comparisons were made with existing CDC categories and then integrated with lists from the New York City and New Jersey health departments in a collaborative effort. Two comprehensive lists were developed, each containing multiple subcategories and over 100 keywords for both mental health and injury. The data classifiers using these keywords were used to assess impacts of Sandy on mental health and injuries in New York State. The lists will be validated by comparing the ED chief complaint keyword with the final ICD diagnosis code.

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* Denotes CSDA Associates and Staff