In response to concerns about an increased death rate in Louisiana post-Katrina, a study conducted by the Department of Health has determined that the death rate in the Greater New Orleans area dropped during the first 10 months of 2006 compared to the 44 months prior to the storm.
The department has published its findings in a report entitled “Mortality in the Greater New Orleans Area, Post-Katrina.” According to the report, authored by State Epidemiologist Dr. Raoult Ratard, there are no apparent large increases in deaths, or subsequently death rates, in the Greater New Orleans area (including Orleans, Jefferson, St. Bernard, Plaquemines, St. James, St. John, St. Charles, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa and Washington), in East Baton Rouge or the rest of Louisiana. The report looked at data from 2002 through 2006.
Orleans was the only parish in the Greater New Orleans area to observe a slight increase in its number of deaths. This above-average death rate occurred during the first three months of 2006, and will be analyzed more closely when cause of death data becomes available. After the increase, the death rate fell, reaching a five-year low in September 2006. Only one other parish in the state experienced a similar death rate increase, also in the first quarter of 2006, in East Baton Rouge. That increase will also be further analyzed.
The mortality rates were calculated based on parish population estimates and the number of deaths among parish residents per month. The report does not address the deaths of those who have died out of state, as LDH does not have data on this population. Death rates were calculated for East Baton Rouge Parish and the rest of Louisiana in order to address the theory that there is an excess number of deaths in Louisiana due to the Orleans residents who relocated throughout the state after Katrina.
In the Greater New Orleans area, the total number of deaths was significantly fewer in 2006 than in past years, but this is attributed to the large decrease in population. When the deaths are calculated in ratio to population, the death rate shows there is very little change in the frequency at which people are dying.
The report further breaks down the numbers parish-by-parish to provide a more detailed look into the data. According to the report, all other death rates outside of the Greater New Orleans area seem to be within expected ranges, except for the slightly higher rates seen in East Baton Rouge Parish in early 2006.
“Mortality in the Greater New Orleans Area, Post-Katrina” marks the first time that experts have been able to use population estimates in order to determine if the rate of death has changed in the area post-Katrina compared to pre-Katrina.
This report is a follow-up to a previous study from August of 2006, which included only a summary comparison of death numbers for Orleans Parish residents. The first study, called “Comparison of Death Numbers,” looked at data between the six-month period after Katrina and a similar six-month period in 2004.