Psychosocial distress among women following a natural disaster in a low- to middle-income country: “healthy mothers, healthy communities” study in Vanuatu
Natural disasters have major consequences for mental health in low- and middle-income countries. Symptoms are often more pronounced among women. We analyzed patterns and predictors of distress among pregnant and non-pregnant women 3–4 and 15–16 months after a cyclone in Vanuatu, a low- to middle-income country. Distress levels were high among both pregnant and non-pregnant women, although pregnant women showed lower longer-term symptoms. Low dietary diversity predicted greater distress, which could affect women even in villages with little cyclone damage.
KeywordsPregnancy Pacific PTSD Developing country Low- and middle-income countries (LMICs)
The “Healthy Mothers, Healthy Communities” project grew out of our collaborations with the Health Transition in Vanuatu research team, led by Ralph Garruto and J. Koji Lum (Binghamton University), and the Stress in Pregnancy International Research Alliance, led by Suzanne King (McGill University). We are deeply appreciative to the local malaria team, who continue to allow us to work alongside them in the outer islands, including Harry Iata, James Yaviong, Morris Kalkoa, and Sam Yamar. We are grateful to the women in the Vila Central Market who helped distribute questionnaires; Christiane Damassing for her assistance with recruitment; Alek Buffa, who helped with data collection; and those women in each of the villages who completed the survey themselves, then encouraged and aided their peers to complete the survey as well. Thanks to Harold Neel for his continued local support; without which, this study would not have been possible.
Supported by funds from the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, the Natural Hazards Center, and the Faculté des sciences of the Université du Québec à Montréal. Kelsey Dancause was supported by a salary award from the Fonds de recherche du Québec - Santé while working on this project.
Compliance with ethical standards
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committees and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.
- Chan CW, Iata H, Yaviong J, Kalkoa M, Yamar S, Taleo G, Isozumi R, Fukui M, Aoyama F, Pomer A, Dancause KN, Kaneko A (2017) Surveillance for malaria outbreak on malaria-eliminating islands in Tafea Province, Vanuatu after Tropical Cyclone Pam in 2015. Epidemiol Infect 145(1):41–45CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Epping-Jordan JE, van Ommeren M, Ashour HN, Maramis A, Marini A, Mohanraj A, Noori A, Rizwan H, Saeed K, Silove D, Suveendran T, Urbina L, Ventevogel P, Saxena S (2015) Beyond the crisis: building back better mental health care in 10 emergency-affected areas using a longer-term perspective. Int J Ment Heal Syst 9:15CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) (2010) Guidelines for measuring household and individual dietary diversity. Rome, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. http://www.fao.org/3/a-i1983e.pdf. Accessed 2 May 2018
- Pomer A, Buffa G, Taleo F, Sizemore JH, Tokon A, Taleo G, Tarivonda L, Chan CW, Kaneko A, Dancause KN (2018) Relationships between psychosocial distress and diet during pregnancy and infant birthweight in a lower-middle income country: “healthy mothers, healthy communities” study in Vanuatu. Ann Hum Biol 45(3):220–228CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Weiss DS, Marmar CR (1997) The impact of event scale - revised. Guilford, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- Zahlawi T, Roome AB, Chan CW, Campbell JJ, Tosiro B, Malanga M, Tagaro M, Obed J, Iaruel J, Taleo G, Tarivonda L, Olszowy KM, Dancause KN (2019) Psychosocial support during displacement due to a natural disaster: relationships with distress in a lower-middle income country. Int Health. https://doi.org/10.1093/inthealth/ihy099