Beyond PTSD: the influence of culture, community, and socio-economic factors in the health and recovery of three communities affected by the 2003 BC wildfires

Firestorms devastated the BC communities of Kelowna, Barriere and Louis Creek in 2003. The exact impact of the psychological, economic and social disruption of the fires on the health and well-being of these communities is unknown. But research on the health consequences of natural disasters has shown that such events are associated with a variety of adverse health outcomes, including posttraumatic stress disorder and depression, and also with experiences of social and personal transformation and growth. Robin Cox is studying the disaster recovery processes in these three communities. Her goal is to develop a model of the processes that reflects the complexity of the event, taking into account the influence of public policy, economics, community cohesiveness and community identity on the physical, emotional and social well-being of people affected by natural disasters. The study will address gaps in existing disaster research by exploring the reciprocal relationships between community-level coping, individual coping and health, and by identifying individual and collective responses that foster resiliency and the adaptive capacities of people responding to trauma and stress. The results may also provide valuable information for governments, communities and disaster response agencies attempting to develop relevant and effective policies and services to support individuals and communities recovering from natural disasters.