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Surviving the Flood: Risk Management, Resilience, and the Endocrine and Health Impacts of Natural Disaster in a Subsistence Population

Ben Trumble, UCSB
In February 2014, catastrophic flooding impacted the Tsimane forager-horticulturalists of lowland Bolivia. Flooding decimated the subsistence lifestyle and more than two-thirds of villages were flooded (completely destroying crops and washing away most possessions); thousands fled to the nearby market town of San Borja. Widespread food insecurity and disease followed. This project examines the immediate impacts of catastrophic flooding on a subsistence population with limited support from formal institutions (e.g. government, NGO’s, insurance firms) characteristic of Industrial populations. In a sample of more than 400 families this study examines acute effects of disaster and crop/material losses on behavior, psychosocial stress, endocrine physiology, and health. We find a 2.6 fold increase in anemia and 2.4 fold increase in high white blood cell counts following the flood, as well as a nearly a one unit decrease in body mass index (BMI). Individuals with higher levels of crop loss were more present oriented in a time discounting task, and family illness predicted whether individuals moved the locations of their homes and fields homes following the flood. Natural disasters impact all populations, yet rural, indigenous populations are particularly vulnerable. Understanding factors promoting resilience in a population with limited schooling, material wealth, or access to modern healthcare is an important goal, as much of the world’s population lives in extreme poverty.

Lunch provided on a first-come, first-serve basis. BEC requests a $6 donation.

Monday, March 2, 2015
12:30 PM - 1:30 PM
Los Angeles, CA, Haines Hall 352, UCLA

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