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The National Health Policy Forum sponsored a site visit to New Orleans, Louisiana, in May 2009 to explore the city's health challenges, which are similar to those faced by other cities but were all greatly exacerbated by Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. The agenda focused on three themes: primary care and behavioral health services availability and access, public health preparedness, and rebuilding healthier communities. It examined how these themes and others intersect in two distinct communities within New Orleans: the Holy Cross community surrounding the Lower Ninth Ward Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development and the community surrounding the Mary Queen of Viet Nam Community Development Corporation in New Orleans East. The agenda also included several panels convened in the hotel and on site, as well as visits to sites in the Bywater and Algiers neighborhoods, highlighting success stories as well as remaining challenges. Site visit participants learned about ongoing struggles to recover and rebuild after the disaster, efforts to improve preparedness for future public health threats, the continuing challenge to coordinate among providers to reorient the health care system away from centralized inpatient care and toward community-based primary care, and multifaceted, community-led initiatives to rebuild stronger, safer, healthier communities.

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