Alexis A Merdjanoff

Alexis Merdjanoff
Alexis A Merdjanoff

Clinical Assistant Professor of Social and Behavioral Sciences

Professional overview

Dr. Alexis Merdjanoff is a Clinical Assistant Professor in Social and Behavioral Sciences at New York University’s School of Global Public Health. She is a public health sociologist who explores how population health is affected by exposure to natural hazards, including hurricanes, floods, extreme heat and wildfires. Dr. Merdjanoff is particularly interested in how social inequalities shape the impact of hazards on health, recovery, and resilience for vulnerable populations. To do so, she collects and analyzes survey and interview data to form a holistic understanding of how individuals and communities are affected by these events. While disasters have traditionally been thought of as finite phenomena—with a majority of research focused on the immediate consequences—her research reveals how environmental stressors can lead to economic, emotional, and health burdens long after an event has passed. By focusing on the long-term effects of disasters, she has been able to determine why some survivors are able to recover quickly while others remain mired for months or years.

As Director of Research for the Population Impact, Recovery and Resilience (PiR2) research program, she is currently working on several studies, including the longitudinal Katrina@10 Program, the Sandy Child and Family Health (S-CAFH) Study, and SCALE-UP East Boston to answer questions related to improving the health and well-being of populations exposed to disasters and climate change. More recently, her work has explored the post-disaster resilience of older adults and how older adults can successfully age in high-risk coastal areas. Using in-depth interviews, she aims to identify the resources that older adults need to be resilient, including the social and physical infrastructures needed to successfully prepare for and recover from acute and chronic natural hazards. Her goal is to understand how older adults can successfully adapt to and prepare for coastal erosion, frequent flooding, heatwaves, and disasters.

Dr. Merdjanoff frequently engages in mixed-methods research, including semi-structured in-depth interviewing, focus groups, and survey analysis. Trained as a sociologist, she believes in a holistic approach to answering questions surrounding health, disaster exposure, and recovery.  Dr. Merdjanoff teaches several public health courses including, “Qualitative & Field Methods in Global Public Health,” and “Global Issues in Social & Behavioral Health.”

Education

BS, Sociology (Magna Cum Laude), New York University, New York, NY
MA, Sociology, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
PhD, Sociology, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ

Honors and awards

Innovator Program Fellow, National Center for Atmospheric Research (2019)
Butler-Williams Scholar, National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health (2019)
Aging and Rural Health Research Award, American Public Health Association, Aging and Public Health Section (2017)
Best Dissertation in Mental Health, American Sociological Association, Sociology of Mental Health section (2016)
Anne Foner Dissertation Prize, Department of Sociology, Rutgers University (2016)
Matilda White Riley Published Article Award for Outstanding Journal Article, Department of Sociology, Rutgers University (2013)
Weather & Society Integrated Studies (WAS*IS) Fellow (2011)
Graduate School Special Study Award, Rutgers University (2011)

Areas of research and study

Aging and the Life Course
Disaster Impact and Recovery
Housing Stability
Mental Health
Mixed-Methods Research
Social Behaviors
Social Determinants of Health

Publications

Publications

Elevated serious psychological distress, economic disruption, and the COVID-19 pandemic in the nonmetropolitan American West

Mueller, J. T., Merdjanoff, A., McConnell, K., Burow, P., & Farrell, J.

Publication year

2022

Journal title

Preventive Medicine

Volume

155
Abstract
Abstract
In this study we examined the psychological distress, self-rated health, COVID-19 exposure, and economic disruption of a sample of the nonmetropolitan western U.S. population and labor force one year after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Using novel primary survey data from non-metropolitan counties in the eleven contiguous western United States collected from February 28 until April 3, 2021 (n = 1203), we descriptively analyzed variables and estimated binomial and multinomial logit models of the association between economic disruption, COVID-19 exposure, self-rated health, and psychological distress. Results showed there was widespread presence of psychological distress, COVID-19 exposure, and economic disruption among the overall sample and members of the labor force. There was extremely high incidence of serious psychological distress (14.8% CI [12.1,17.8] of the weighted sample), which was heightened among the labor force (16.6%, CI [13.0,20.9] of those in the labor force). We found economic disruption was associated with severe psychological distress, but exposure to infection was not. Comparatively, overall self-rated health was at similar levels as prior research and was not significantly associated with economic disruption or COVID-19 exposure. COVID-19, particularly its associated economic effects, had a significant relationship with serious psychological distress in this sample of adults in the nonmetropolitan western United States.

Adverse Physical and Mental Health Effects of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill among Gulf Coast Children: An Environmental Justice Perspective

Meltzer, G. Y., Merdjanoff, A. A., & Abramson, D. M.

Publication year

2021

Journal title

Environmental Justice

Volume

14

Issue

2

Page(s)

124-133
Abstract
Abstract
Background: This study applies an environmental justice lens to examine whether racial/ethnic minority and low socioeconomic status affected children's physical and mental health after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. It expands this lens to explore whether these risk factors affected children's health due to greater direct physical exposure to crude oil or dispersant and/or household economic exposure as a result of income or job loss. Methods: We used data from the Gulf Coast Population Impact (GCPI) study, a representative survey of 1434 households in 15 highly impacted Gulf Coast communities gathered from April to August 2012. We conducted binomial logistic regression to assess the associations between race/ethnicity and annual household income, oil spill exposure routes, and children's health. Results: Non-White children (prevalence odds ratios [POR] 1.40; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.04-1.89) and those with direct oil/dispersant exposure (POR 3.68; 95% CI 2.78-4.87) were at greater risk of physical health problems. Children in households earning less than $20,000 annually (POR 2.90; 95% CI 1.88-4.48) and those with direct oil/dispersant exposure (POR 3.74; 95% CI 2.72-5.14) were at greater risk of mental health problems. Racial/ethnic minority children were not at greater risk of physical exposure, whereas race/ethnicity and annual household income interacted to determine risk of economic exposure. We observed an interaction effect between annual household income and oil spill-related income or job loss on children's physical health problems. Discussion: Further environmental justice research should examine the pathways through which racial/ethnic minority and low socioeconomic status influence child health outcomes after technological disasters.

Anticipated mental health consequences of COVID-19 in a nationally-representative sample: Context, coverage, and economic consequences

Piltch-Loeb, R., Merdjanoff, A., & Meltzer, G.

Publication year

2021

Journal title

Preventive Medicine

Volume

145
Abstract
Abstract
The COVID-19 pandemic will have long-term consequences due to social and economic disruption. This study aimed to understand the contextual, media, and economic factors associated with anticipated mental health consequences from the COVID-19 pandemic among Americans. A nationally representative survey of 1001 respondents was conducted in April 2020. Chi-square tests and logistic regressions examined anticipated emotional or psychological effects on respondents or members of their households should social distancing measures continue. Specific analyses focused on: 1) COVID-19 experience - knowing someone or being infected; living in a state with a high death rate; or state social distancing policies; 2) media exposure - source of coronavirus information and time spent on coronavirus news; and 3) economics - current economic effects; and anticipated long-term financial effects. 41% of respondents anticipated mental health consequences. Living in a state with a greater COVID-19 death rate (OR 1.73; 95% CI 1.10, 2.72) and anticipating long-term financial difficulties (OR 2.98; 95% CI 1.93, 4.60) were both associated with greater likelihood of anticipated mental health consequences. Those whose primary news source was television, as opposed to print or online, were almost 50% less likely to anticipate mental health challenges (OR 0.52 CI 0.33, 0.81), while those who reported spending two or more hours daily on COVID-19 news were 90% more likely (OR 1.90; 95% CI 1.27, 2.85). Aspects of community health, media consumption, and economic impacts influence anticipated poor mental health from the COVID-19 pandemic, suggesting each domain is relevant to interventions to address the consequences.

Development of an Integrated Approach to Virtual Mind-Mapping: Methodology and Applied Experiences to Enhance Qualitative Health Research

Ali, S. H., Merdjanoff, A. A., Parekh, N., & DiClemente, R. J.

Publication year

2021

Journal title

Qualitative Health Research
Abstract
Abstract
There is a growing need to better capture comprehensive, nuanced, and multi-faceted qualitative data while also better engaging with participants in data collection, especially in virtual environments. This study describes the development of a novel 3-step approach to virtual mind-mapping that involves (1) ranked free-listing, (2) respondent-driven mind-mapping, and (3) interviewing to enhance both data collection and analysis of complex health behaviors. The method was employed in 32 virtual interviews as part of a study on eating behaviors among second-generation South Asian Americans. Participants noted the mind-mapping experience to be (1) helpful for visual learners, (2) helpful in elucidating new ideas and to structure thoughts, as well as (3) novel and interesting. They also noted some suggestions that included improving interpretability of visual data and avoiding repetition of certain discussion points. Data collection revealed the adaptability of the method, and the power of mind-maps to guide targeted, comprehensive discussions with participants.

Examining the Dose–Response Relationship: Applying the Disaster Exposure Matrix to Understand the Mental Health Impacts of Hurricane Sandy

Merdjanoff, A. A., Abramson, D. M., Piltch-Loeb, R., Findley, P., Peek, L., Beedasy, J., Park, Y. S., Sury, J., & Meltzer, G. Y.

Publication year

2021

Journal title

Clinical Social Work Journal
Abstract
Abstract
Disaster exposure is a strong predictor of survivor mental health following large-scale disasters. However, there is continued debate regarding how disaster exposure should be measured and quantified, as well as whether specific types of disaster exposure are more likely to influence certain mental health outcomes like psychological distress or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In this article, we propose the Disaster Exposure Matrix to explain how specific types and levels of disaster exposure are associated with particular mental health outcomes. We use data from the Sandy Child and Family Health study—an observational cohort study of 1000 randomly selected New Jersey residents who were living in the nine counties most-affected by Hurricane Sandy (2012)—to examine how direct and indirect disaster exposure at both the individual and community levels influence the likelihood of experiencing psychological distress and probable PTSD in the two years after Hurricane Sandy. Weighted logistic regression models demonstrate that particular measures of individual-level direct and indirect exposure uniquely influence probable PTSD and psychological distress, respectively. Community-level indirect exposure is significantly associated with psychological distress but not with probable PTSD. Findings highlight the importance of specificity when measuring the effects of disaster exposure on mental health, including separating exposures that occur at the individual and community level, as well as distinguishing those that are experienced directly from the event from those that are indirect and experienced after the meteorological or geophysical event has passed.

Impact of occupational exposure to COVID-19 on the physical and mental health of an essential workgroup: New York City transit workers

Gershon, R. R., Merdjanoff, A. A., Meltzer, G. Y., Piltch-Loeb, R., Rosen, J., Nwankwo, E. M., Medina, P., Vlahov, D., & Sherman, M. F.

Publication year

2021

Journal title

Journal of Emergency Management

Volume

19

Issue

9

Page(s)

133-146
Abstract
Abstract
Background and purpose: Early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, New York City (NYC) vowed to “keep the subways running” despite the lack of plans in place for protecting the health and well-being of transit workers. This study was designed to assess the impact of employment during the early phase of the pandemic on this essential frontline workforce. Methods, settings, and study participants: A convenience sample of members (stratified by job title) of the NYC Transport Workers Union, Local 100, was recruited in August 2020 to participate in an anonymous, cross-sectional, internet-based survey. Results: The demographics of the sample participants (N = 645) reflected union membership, ie, 82 percent male, 29 percent Black; 27 percent Hispanic, and 59 percent ≥age 50 years. At the time of the “NYC Pause” (March 22, 2020) when mandatory stay-at-home orders were issued, transit workers had limited worksite protections. Many reported a lack of such basics as face masks (43 percent), hand sanitizer (40 percent), and disposable gloves (34 percent). A high proportion (87 percent) were concerned about getting infected at work. Lack of certain protections was significantly associated with both fear of contagion at work and mental health symptoms. Nearly 24 percent of participants reported a history of COVID-19 infection. Self-reported infection was significantly correlated with lack of certain protections, including respiratory masks (p < 0.001), disposable gloves (p < 0.001), and hand sanitizer (p < 0.001). Infection was also significantly associated with mental health symptoms (p < 0.001). By August 2020, despite participants reporting that many worksite protections were then in place, 72 percent of workers were still fearful for their safety at work, eg, because of potential exposure due to passengers not wearing masks, and risk of verbal abuse and physical assault by passengers angered when asked to wear face masks. Workers who were fearful for their safety at work were more than six times more likely to report mental health symptoms (p < 0.001). Conclusions: Lack of worksite protections before “NYC Pause” (March 22, 2020) was significantly associated with self-reported infection, fear, and mental health symptoms in TWU, Local 100 members. To reduce the risk of adverse impacts associated with bioevents in all essential work groups, and across all essential occupational settings, infection control preparedness, early recognition of risk, and implementation of tailored risk reduction strategies are imperative. Pandemic preparedness is fundamental to protecting the health and well-being of essential workers and crucial in controlling the spread of disease in the community. Bioevent preparedness for all essential frontline workgroups will also help reduce occupational health inequities. Workers at risk, regardless of setting, deserve and have the right to equal protections under federal and state law.

Scales and sensitivities in climate vulnerability, displacement, and health

Hunter, L. M., Koning, S., Fussell, E., King, B., Rishworth, A., Merdjanoff, A., Muttarak, R., Riosmena, F., Simon, D. H., Skop, E., & Van Den Hoek, J.

Publication year

2021

Journal title

Population and Environment

Volume

43

Issue

1

Page(s)

61-81
Abstract
Abstract
Climate change and attendant weather events are global phenomena with wide-ranging implications for migration and health. We argue that while these issues are inherently interrelated, little empirical or policy attention has been given to the three-way nexus between climate vulnerability, migration, and health. In this Review, we develop a conceptual model to guide research on this three-way nexus. In so doing, we apply our conceptual model to a range of case studies, including Bangladesh, Mexico, Myanmar, and the USA. They illustrate that climate vulnerability-migration-health interlinkages are context specific, varying by political, economic, demographic, social, and environmental factors unique to each population and place. Even so, the case studies also demonstrate that overarching themes amenable to policy can be identified. Global organizations and researchers from a multiplicity of disciplinary backgrounds have strong imperatives and unique but often overlooked capacity to innovate and experiment in addressing climate vulnerability-migration-health interlinkages. We call for research and policy focus on these issues and suggest targeted efforts to begin mitigating migration and health issues associated with global climate change.

The Fight for Affordable Rental Housing in 1980s New York: A Tenants’ Association’s Anticonversion Stance

Merdjanoff, A. A.

Publication year

2021

Journal title

Journal of Urban History

Volume

47

Issue

3

Page(s)

606-622
Abstract
Abstract
This article examines an historical case study of a moderate-income rental complex’s condominium conversion in New York City during the 1980s. Despite research suggesting that tenants desire homeownership, residents of Park West Village (PWV) waged a five-year battle against management and remained tenants in overwhelming numbers when two buildings were converted to condominiums in 1987. Using historical documents, I examine why tenants fought against local growth and rejected the opportunity to accumulate personal capital through homeownership. I posit that the Park West Village Tenants’ Association (PWVTA) garnered considerable resident support by engaging in three economically driven frames against conversion at the individual, community, and state level. Despite the clear link between urban growth and conversions, the process and local opposition to conversion has yet to be examined. This historical case contributes to research on tenants’ associations, affordable rental housing, and considers how widespread condominium conversion contributed to inequality.

When rebuilding no longer means recovery: the stress of staying put after Hurricane Sandy

Koslov, L., Merdjanoff, A., Sulakshana, E., & Klinenberg, E.

Publication year

2021

Journal title

Climatic Change

Volume

165

Issue

3
Abstract
Abstract
After a disaster, it is common to equate repopulation and rebuilding with recovery. Numerous studies link post-disaster relocation to adverse social, economic, and health outcomes. However, there is a need to reconsider these relationships in light of accelerating climate change and associated social and policy shifts in the USA, including the rising cost of flood insurance, the challenge of obtaining aid to rebuild, and growing interest in “managed retreat” from places at greatest risk. This article presents data from a survey of individuals who opted either to rebuild in place or relocate with the help of a voluntary home buyout after Hurricane Sandy. Findings show those who lived in buyout-eligible areas and relocated were significantly less likely to report worsened stress than those who rebuilt in place. This suggests access to a government-supported voluntary relocation option may, under certain circumstances, lessen the negative mental health consequences associated with disaster-related housing damage.

“Moving Forward”: Older Adult Motivations for Group-Based Physical Activity After Cancer Treatment

Lynch, K. A., Merdjanoff, A., Wilson, D., Chiarello, L., Hay, J., & Mao, J. J.

Publication year

2021

Journal title

International Journal of Behavioral Medicine
Abstract
Abstract
Background: Engagement in physical activity (PA) post-treatment can improve health outcomes and quality of life among cancer survivors. The purpose of this study is to explore United States (US) older adult cancer survivors’ (OACS) reasons for engaging in group-based PA classes, to identify themes supporting exercise motivations in the context of cancer recovery. Methods: OACS participating in a fitness program at a large US comprehensive cancer center completed semi-structured interviews. Transcripts were analyzed using modified grounded theory, and demographic data were analyzed descriptively. Results: Modified grounded theory analysis (n = 25; age M = 70.92, SD = 10.82; 9 cancer types) identified individual rationales for exercise grounded in collective experience. Participants’ internal motivations for PA are shaped by the desire for control over an uncertain future and post-treatment body, obtained by literally “moving forward” post-cancer; this is supported by external motivations for social connections that present a positive model of survivorship, within a setting that instills confidence and safety. Conclusions: Exercise can be a way for older adults to tap into internal and external motivations that support cancer survivorship. Interventions that make explicit connections between exercise and cancer recovery, facilitate interpersonal interaction, and promote a sense of safety may be the most effective. The concepts identified in this study can inform the development of future interventions to improve long-term behavior change among OACS and evaluate existing PA programs.

Identifying Barriers and Facilitators of Success for Female Radiology Researchers: An Analysis of In-Depth Interviews With Nationally Recognized Leaders of the Field

Piltch-Loeb, R., Rosenkrantz, A. B., & Merdjanoff, A. A.

Publication year

2020

Journal title

Journal of the American College of Radiology

Volume

17

Issue

10

Page(s)

1344-1351
Abstract
Abstract
Objective: Women are highly underrepresented among leadership positions within radiology research, disproportionate to their underrepresentation in radiology overall. We sought to identify the causes and solutions of such disparity at the personal, organizational, and institutional levels among female radiology researchers who are leaders in the field. Subjects and methods: We used purposive sampling to identify nationally recognized female leaders in radiology research. We developed a semistructured interview guide and conducted in-depth one-on-one telephone interviews with participants (n = 16) that ranged from 36 to 65 min. All interviews were recorded and transcribed. Data were analyzed by two researchers trained in qualitative methods using Saldana's first- and second-cycle coding method. Themes were identified using a grounded theory approach to identify meaningful patterns that addressed the research question. Results: Participants identified barriers to their professional development and success, including personal and professional obstacles often associated with work-life balance and the nonlinear nature of women's careers because of caregiving responsibilities. Participants also identified facilitators of success that operated at the individual, organizational, and institutional level, such as purposeful networking, having an advocate, and participating in leadership events. Conclusion: This study represents the first effort to qualitatively capture the facilitators of success for nationally recognized female radiology researchers. Findings suggest that synergistic efforts can be undertaken by early-career female radiologists and their colleagues, national radiology organizations, and academic institutions to systematically enable the inclusion and participation of women. The field of radiology should consider how to work dynamically at multiple levels to implement the identified potential changes.

Impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on rural America

Mueller, J. T., McConnell, K., Burow, P. B., Pofahl, K., Merdjanoff, A. A., & Farrell, J.

Publication year

2020

Journal title

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

Volume

118

Issue

1
Abstract
Abstract
Despite considerable social scientific attention to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on urbanized areas, very little research has examined its impact on rural populations. Yet rural communities- which make up tens of millions of people from diverse backgrounds in the United States-are among the nation's most vulnerable populations and may be less resilient to the effects of such a large-scale exogenous shock. We address this critical knowledge gap with data from a new survey designed to assess the impacts of the pandemic on health-related and economic dimensions of rural well-being in the North American West. Notably, we find that the effects of the COVID- 19 pandemic on rural populations have been severe, with significant negative impacts on unemployment, overall life satisfaction, mental health, and economic outlook. Further, we find that these impacts have been generally consistent across age, ethnicity, education, and sex. We discuss how these findings constitute the beginning of a much larger interdisciplinary COVID-19 research effort that integrates rural areas and pushes beyond the predominant focus on cities and nation-states.

Housing Transitions and Recovery of Older Adults following Hurricane Sandy

Merdjanoff, A. A., Piltch-Loeb, R., Friedman, S., & Abramson, D. M.

Publication year

2019

Journal title

Journals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences

Volume

74

Issue

6

Page(s)

1041-1052
Abstract
Abstract
Objectives: This study explores the effects of social and environmental disruption on emergency housing transitions among older adults following Hurricane Sandy. It is based upon the Sandy Child and Family Health (S-CAFH) Study, an observational cohort of 1,000 randomly sampled New Jersey residents living in the nine counties most affected by Sandy. Methods: This analysis examines the post-Sandy housing transitions and recovery of the young-old (55-64), mid-old (65-74), and old-old (75+) compared with younger adults (19-54). We consider length of displacement, number of places stayed after Sandy, the housing host (i.e., family only, friends only, or multi-host), and self-reported recovery. Results: Among all age groups, the old-old (75+) reported the highest rates of housing damage and were more likely to stay in one place besides their home, as well as stay with family rather than by themselves after the storm. Despite this disruption, the old-old were most likely to have recovered from Hurricane Sandy. Discussion: Findings suggest that the old-old were more resilient to Hurricane Sandy than younger age groups. Understanding the unique post-disaster housing needs of older adults can help identify critical points of intervention for their post-disaster recovery.

Support for vector control strategies in the United States during the Zika outbreak in 2016: The role of risk perception, knowledge, and confidence in government

Piltch-Loeb, R., Merdjanoff, A. A., Bhanja, A., & Abramson, D. M.

Publication year

2019

Journal title

Preventive Medicine

Volume

119

Page(s)

52-57
Abstract
Abstract
Limiting the spread and impact of Zika was a major global priority in 2016, which required a variety of vector control measures. The success of vector control campaigns is varied and often dependent on public or political will. This paper examines the change over time in the United States population's support for vector control and the factors that predicted support for three vector control strategies (i.e., indoor spraying, outdoor spraying, and use of larvacide tablets) during the 2016 Zika outbreak in the United States. Data is from a nationally representative random digit dial sample conducted at three time points in 2016. Bivariate and multivariate regression analyses were used, treating data as a pooled cross-sectional sample. Results show public support for vector control strategies depends on both perceived risk for disease and knowledge of disease characteristics, as well is confidence in government to prevent the threat. Support varied based on vector control method: indoor spraying, aerial spraying, and use of larvacide tables. Results can aide public health officials in implementing effective vector control campaigns depending on the vector control strategy of choice. Results have implications for ways to design effective prevention campaigns in future emerging infectious disease threats.

How the US Population Engaged with and Prioritized Sources of Information about the Emerging Zika Virus in 2016

Piltch-Loeb, R., Merdjanoff, A. A., & Abramson, D. M.

Publication year

2018

Journal title

Health Security

Volume

16

Issue

3

Page(s)

165-177
Abstract
Abstract
Emerging disease threats like Zika pose a risk to naïve populations. In comparison to chronic diseases, there is scientific uncertainty surrounding emerging diseases because of the lack of medical and public health information available as the threat emerges. Further complicating this are the multiple, diverse channels through which people get information. This article used bivariate and multivariate analysis to first describe the breadth of information sources individuals accessed about the Zika virus, and then describe individuals' primary sources of information for Zika using a nationally representative pooled cross-sectional data set collected at 3 time points in 2016 (N = 3,698). The analysis also highlights how 3 subgroups - high-education, high-income adults; Hispanic women of childbearing age; and retirees over the age of 65 with less than a high school education - varied in their use of information. Results suggest individuals accessed multiple sources, but TV and radio were the primary sources of Zika information for the public, followed by print news. Demographic variation in primary source of information means public health officials should consider alternative channels to reach target groups in an emerging event. Without an understanding of how information has reached people, and who individuals engaged with regarding that information, public health practitioners are missing a key piece of the puzzle to improving public health campaigns during a future event like Zika. This analysis aims to inform the public health community about the message channels the US population uses during an emerging disease event and the most prevalent channels for different demographic groups, who can be targeted with particular messaging.

Risk salience of a novel virus: US population risk perception, knowledge, and receptivity to public health interventions regarding the Zika virus prior to local transmission

Piltch-Loeb, R., Abramson, D. M., & Merdjanoff, A. A.

Publication year

2017

Journal title

PloS one

Volume

12

Issue

12
Abstract
Abstract
Background As the incidence of Zika infection accelerated in Central and South American countries from November 2015 through April 2016, U.S. public health officials developed vector control and risk communication strategies to address mosquito-borne and sexual modes of transmission. This study reports upon U.S. perceptions of the Zika virus prior to domestic transmission, and analyzes the association of socio-economic, political, knowledge and risk factors with population receptivity to selected behavioral, environmental, and clinical intervention strategies. Methods A representative sample of 1,233 U.S. residents was drawn from address-based telephone and mobile phone lists, including an oversample of 208 women of child-bearing age living in five U.S. southern states. Data were collected between April and June, 2016, and weighted to represent U.S. population distributions. Results Overall, 78% of the U.S. population was aware of Zika prior to domestic transmission. Those unaware of the novel virus were more likely to be younger, lower income, and of Hispanic ethnicity. Among those aware of Zika, over half would delay pregnancy for a year or more in response to public health warnings; approximately one third agreed with a possible vector-control strategy of targeted indoor spraying by the government; and nearly two-thirds agreed that the government should make pregnancy-termination services available to women who learn their fetus had a Zika-related birth defect. Receptivity to these public health interventions varied by age, risk perception, and knowledge of the virus. Conclusion Risk salience and population receptivity to public health interventions targeting a novel virus can be conditioned on pre-existing characteristics in the event of an emerging infectious disease. Risk communicators should consider targeted strategies to encourage adoption of behavioral, environmental, and clinical interventions.

Disaster planning for vulnerable populations: Leveraging community human service organizations direct service delivery personnel

Levin, K. L., Berliner, M., & Merdjanoff, A.

Publication year

2014

Journal title

Journal of Public Health Management and Practice

Volume

20

Page(s)

S79-S82
Abstract
Abstract
Introduction: Given the variability, complexities, and available resources for local vulnerable populations, it is clear that preparing effectively for catastrophic events cannot be accomplished with a single, simple template. Inclusion of Community Human Service Organizations' (CHSO's) direct service delivery personnel ensures that emergency disaster planning efforts for vulnerable populations are effective and responsive to unique needs and constraints. By leveraging existing local resources, it extends the preparedness system's reach to the whole community. Background: CHSO personnel already perform community-based services and directly engage with vulnerable and special needs populations; typically they are on the front lines during an emergency event. Generally, however, the CHSOs, staff, and clients are neither adequately prepared for disasters nor well integrated into emergency systems. To address preparedness gaps identified during Hurricane Sandy, regional CHSO and local health department partners requested that the Columbia Regional Learning Center provide preparedness trainings for their agencies and staff responsible for vulnerable clients. Methods: Evaluation of this initiative was begun with a mixed-methods approach consisting of collaborative learning activities, a function-based assessment tool, and a 5 Steps to Preparedness module. Results: Results from a survey were inclusive because of a low response rate but suggested satisfaction with the training format and content; increases in awareness of a client preparedness role; and steps toward improved personal, agency, and client preparedness. Discussion: Direct service delivery personnel can leverage routine client interactions for preparedness planning and thus can contribute significantly to vulnerable population and community disaster readiness. Trainings that provide preparedness tools can help support this role. Lessons Learned: CHSO personnel are knowledgeable and have the expertise to assist clients in personal preparedness planning; yet, there are challenges around their ability and willingness to take on additional responsibilities.

There's no place like home: Examining the emotional consequences of Hurricane Katrina on the displaced residents of New Orleans

Merdjanoff, A. A.

Publication year

2013

Journal title

Social Science Research

Volume

42

Issue

5

Page(s)

1222-1235
Abstract
Abstract
Using survey data from the Displaced New Orleans Residents Pilot Study (DNORPS), I examine the emotional consequences of Hurricane Katrina on the displaced residents of New Orleans. First, I employ an established framework within disaster research to investigate whether the stress level of displaced residents varies by race, income, and gender. As the residents in this dataset remained uprooted from their homes, I also examine three housing variables, including homeownership status, house type, and four levels of home damage. Contrary to previous research, home damage and homeownership status are significant predictors of displaced residents' emotional distress while the effect of race disappears. These findings suggest that future research on the mental health of disaster survivors, especially for displaced residents, expand the traditional analytical framework to consistently include housing variables, especially different categories of home damage, in addition to race, income, and gender.

Contact

alexis.merdjanoff@nyu.edu 708 Broadway 4FL New York, NY, 10003