Health grants for Hurricane Sandy recovery

While pork barrel spending has been all but eliminated in the Congress, the Executive Branch still has the ability to deliver millions and billions of dollars to local groups in a variety of ways. Whether the spending is worthwhile is up to the individual voter.

On Tuesday as the fight percolated in Congress over the problems of the web site for the Obama health law, the Department of Health and Human Services was also awarding over $8 million in research grants.

But it was a new foray for HHS.

"The grants announced today represent the first time the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has funded research needed by local communities to support long-term recovery efforts," a press release touted, as money was sent to groups to focus on recovery in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

"Over the next two years, research will focus on physical and behavioral health aspects of recovery including community resilience, risk communication and the use of social media, health system response and health care access, evacuation and policy decision making, and mental health," HHS announced.

Here's the list of grants awarded under this program:

• American College of Emergency Physicians, Irving, Texas – approximately $444,000 to study how health care systems were impacted negatively before, during, and after Hurricane Sandy and to develop comprehensive recommendations on how to strengthen health care systems going forward to treat patients effectively during disaster events.

• Columbia University, New York City – approximately $596,000 to assess how community-level factors such as economic development, communication, and social connections influence mental and behavioral health recovery in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, and a second grant of approximately $276,000 to assess the resilience of residents of high-rise public housing in responding to Sandy's impact.

• New York University School of Medicine, New York City – approximately $752,000 to assess the resilience and response of a complex regional health care system impacted by Hurricane Sandy and the evaluation of patient care during and after the disaster.

• RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, Calif. – approximately $657,000 to explore how partnerships between local health departments and community-based organizations contribute to the public health system's ability to respond to and recover from emergencies and contribute to resilience.

• Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine, Stratford, N.J.– approximately $681,000 to examine how social networks within neighborhoods play a critical role in determining resilience of older Americans exposed to disasters.

• University of Delaware, Newark– approximately $574,000 to identify critical factors that influence community resilience and use these factors to create a computer program that supports community resilience in New York City after Hurricane Sandy.

• University of Maryland, Baltimore – approximately $417,000 to determine how social connections in a community of Maryland watermen influence their individual behavior and how the behavior impacts disaster recovery after Hurricane Sandy.

• University of Pittsburgh – approximately $576,000 to study ways to minimize disruptions of access to primary health care services during recovery from major disasters, especially for at-risk populations.

Where did the money come from? The grant funds were included in the Hurricane Sandy relief bill that was approved early this year in Congress.

Lawmakers did not specify how it would be spent - that was left up to the agency, which then chose these recipients.

A good use of money? Leave your opinion below.

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