Friday, August 1, 2014

Casanova: Patient Zero

Sometimes historical demography requires overturning some unusual stones to get a sense of fertility patterns, family structure, public health, and other population dynamics in the past. My recent essay, published in Hektoen International Journal of Medical Humanities dives into a very unlikely source for demographic and public health information: Casanova's diary.
Giacomo Casanova, the infamous rake, is responsible for providing historians and anthropologists with a veritable treasure trove of historical health information. His life spanned from 1725 to 1798, and his memoir, Histoire de Ma Vie, recounts nearly every day of his life with meticulous detail, from the most basic breakfast (usually chocolate) to the most convoluted course of treatment for venereal disease (usually mercury). Far from being merely a smut-filled account of Casanova’s sexual conquests, the memoir provides modern readers with extraordinary insight into the world of public health, family planning, and the transmission and treatment of sexually transmitted disease in Europe in the eighteenth century... [continue reading]

Sunday, June 1, 2014

2014 hurricane season begins

The 2014 north Atlantic hurricane season has begun...

More than 83 million people in the U.S. live in states, from Texas to North Carolina, that are at high risk for hurricanes, according to the most recent estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau. Within those states, nearly 37 million people live in coastal communities at high risk of hurricanes, an area covering 179,000 square miles. Hurricanes occasionally strike farther north, but despite hurricane Sandy's damage in 2012, such events are considerably less common than hurricanes in the southern states.


COMPARING TWO HURRICANES

Source: Huffington Post
Early estimates place the damage from Hurricane Sandy at about 400,000 housing units damaged or destroyed, the majority of which were in New York (more than 300,000), New Jersey (approximately 70,000), and Connecticut (approximately 3,000).

While Sandy was more recent, and turned the lights off for more people, hurricane Katrina left more fatalities and damaged homes in her wake.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates that in the summer of 2005 hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma damaged "more than one million housing units across five states." Of the damaged homes 515,000 were in Louisiana, 220,000 in Mississippi, and nearly 140,000 in Texas.

By 2010, according to the HUD study, three quarters of the 2005 hurricane-damaged properties on "significantly affected" blocks were in good condition (at least on the outside*), but nearly 15 percent of the properties still had substantial visible repair needs, and 11 percent no longer contained a permanent residential structure. Louisiana homes, of the state affected, are most likely to still have unrepaired damage. Mississippi homes were most likely to be either repaired or entirely demolished and left vacant.