A Perfect Storm: The Effect of Natural Disasters on Child Health

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Typhoons have destructive effects on child health, particularly by increasing the risk of waterborne disease, a leading source of illness and one of the foremost causes of death in children under age 5. To quantify this phenomenon, I examine the health effects of flooding after Typhoon Labuyo in the Philippines, a country at the center of the Pacific Typhoon Belt, the area most vulnerable to severe typhoons and flooding. I use a spatial regression discontinuity design, comparing children living in a flooded barangay (town) to children living just outside of a flooded area. Results do not show any significant relationship between flooding and incidence of waterborne disease. However, my specifications confirm previously established relationships between controls and incidence of disease. Because health and flood data were collected the day after Typhoon Labuyo left the Philippines, I am able to examine differences between the short-term and medium-term impact of flooding on child health. Subgroup analyses show that flooding decreases waterborne disease incidence, in contrast to my predictions, and that the effect is more pronounced in the medium-term than in the short-term. Discrepancies between my predictions and results may be due to the limited resolution of my flooding data, harming my ability to identify which children truly experienced flooding. This paper also introduces a flood measure that accounts for incidence and intensity using NASA satellite data. Overall, my research provides insight into the global effect of typhoons. Understanding the detrimental health effects of flooding is critical as climate change exacerbates natural disaster events, disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable.






Quijano, Cheyenne (2022). A Perfect Storm: The Effect of Natural Disasters on Child Health. Honors thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/25559.

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