Government Relations Update

Psychologist Jerry Suls featured at Capitol Hill briefing

Research on psychological impact of disasters is highlighted.

Jerry SulsPsychologist Jerry Suls, of the University of Iowa and a member of the American Psychological Association (APA), was featured in a Capitol Hill briefing for congressional staff on September 12, 2011.  The briefing, titled "Public Health 101: Restoring Order After the Cameras Leave," was sponsored by the Coalition for Health Funding, a coalition of scientific, advocacy, and patient organizations dedicated to preserving and enhancing the budgets of U.S. Public Health Service agencies (including the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).  APA is a member of the coalition and cosponsored the briefing.

The only researcher among the three speakers, Suls talked about the data he collected after sequential disasters in southeastern Iowa.  He argued that while there is an appropriate focus on rebuilding physical infrastructure, there should also be attention paid to the psychological infrastructure following natural disasters.   Suls explained that following natural disasters, higher rates of smoking, PTSD, and self-medication through drugs and alcohol are observed, especially among those who are unemployed, isolated, or were already stressed by other circumstances, and that these problems affect the speed and nature of a community's recovery.  He also touched on the need to educate people who have experienced one disaster that additional disasters are possible and to help people be prepared for them.

The other speakers were Isaac Weisfuse, deputy commissioner of the New York City Department of Health, and Clayton Williams, Assistant Secretary for Public Health in Louisiana.