Date of Conferral



Doctor of Public Health (DrPH)


Public Health


Joseph F. Robare


Maternal prenatal exposure to hurricanes and tornadoes could contribute to an increased risk for adverse birth outcomes. Little is known about the effects of Hurricane Katrina of August 2005, on pregnancy outcomes in Mississippi. Additionally, little is known about the influence of the April 2011 Alabama tornado disaster on births in that state. The purpose of this study was to bridge this knowledge gap by examining the relationship between maternal prenatal exposure to these storms and adverse infant health outcomes. The theoretical framework guiding this retrospective, cross-sectional study was the life course approach. Data for this investigation included 2,000 records drawn from the Linked Infant Births and Deaths registers. Chi-square and logistic regression analyses were performed. Results indicated hurricane exposure was not a predictor of preterm birth (OR = .723, 95% CI = [.452, 1.16]; p = 1.76) or low birth weight (OR = .608, 95% CI = [.329-1.13]; p = .113). However, an association was observed between tornado exposure and preterm birth (OR = 1.68, 95% CI = [1.19-2.39]; p = < 0.05) and low birthweight (OR = 1.91, 95% CI = [1.27-2.87]; p = < 0.05). Findings suggest pregnant women are vulnerable to natural disaster storms, and are at risk for adverse pregnancy outcomes. The implications for social change include informing preparedness efforts to reduce vulnerability to increased pregnancy risk factors and adverse birth outcomes, consequential to hurricane and tornado disasters.