Milken Institute School of Public Health Study, a collaboration with the University of Puerto Rico, to Estimate the Excess Deaths from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico
On September 20, 2017 a class 4 hurricane pummeled the island of Puerto Rico causing power outages, infrastructure damage and deaths. Early reports set the mortality rate at 64 but other unsubstantiated counts and one study in the scientific literature have estimated the death toll to be much higher.
To get an accurate, independent accounting of the deaths from Hurricane Maria, the Governor of Puerto Rico ordered a new study, one led by researchers at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University. The study, which contains three parts, will:
- estimate the excess mortality due to the storm from September 20, 2017 through February 2018;
- identify procedures that caused deaths to be underreported; and
- assess the communication efforts by the government of Puerto Rico after the hurricane.
The study, which is being done in collaboration with researchers at the University of Puerto Rico, is the first to use actual death certificates and other mortality data in order to estimate a more precise mortality count due to Hurricane Maria. The information gleaned from this study, including recommendations to the government of Puerto Rico, will be used to help the island prepare and plan for the next big hurricane or other similar natural disaster. In addition, the researchers hope to develop a model that could be used by at-risk coastal regions in the United States and globally to help save lives in the future.
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Statement on New Study to Estimate Excess Mortality in Puerto Rico Tied to Hurricane Maria
The study led by Harvard researchers on the deaths tied to Hurricane Maria is a welcome addition to the scientific literature on the impact of the hurricane in Puerto Rico. The Harvard study used methods that are commonly used following disasters where there are few or no official records of death.