160951 Universal Access: Using Focus Groups to Shape Local and Regional Public Health Emergency Preparedness Planning around Special Needs Populations

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Bryan Hall, MS , Institute for Community Health, Cambridge Health Alliance, Cambridge, MA
Charles K.T. Ishikawa, MSPH , Advanced Practice Center for Emergency Preparedness, Cambridge Public Health Department, Cambridge, MA
Dawn Sibor, MEd , Division of Emergency Preparedness, Brookline Health Department, Brookline, MA
Justeen Hyde, PhD , Institute for Community Health, Cambridge Health Alliance, Cambridge, MA
Public health officials have come under increasing pressure to join traditional first responders like fire and police in developing comprehensive emergency preparedness, response, and recovery plans in the event of a major public health emergency, such as flu pandemic or bioterrorism event. Challenges include how to make these plans and services accessible and responsive to special needs populations, such as non-English speaking populations, the elderly, and those with vision, hearing, cognitive, physical and other impairments. In 2006, the Brookline, MA Health Department, a member of the 27-community Emergency Preparedness Region 4b, conducted a series of five community focus groups with members from various special needs populations and their service providers. The goal was to identify effective strategies for enhancing the accessibility of local emergency services in the event of an emergency that either required evacuation or required sheltering in place. This presentation will explore the unique methodologies behind conducting focus groups with special needs populations. This presentation will also focus on key lessons learned and the far reaching impacts these focus groups have had on emergency planning activities for other local health departments and the larger regional structure. Particular attention will be paid toward the important role personal emergency preparedness planning can play for special needs populations and the concept of “universal design”, a product, service, and environment design approach which is inherently attentive to the needs of vulnerable and special needs populations, yet flexible enough to successfully accommodate the majority of people.

Learning Objectives:
1. Understand how to conduct focus groups with special needs populations, particularly with participants who have limited audio, visual and cognitive abilities. 2. Identify key personal and community-level barriers to universally accessible emergency preparedness and response programs and services. 3. Identify local and regional assets that facilitate change in activities to enhance emergency planning that is inclusive of special populations. 4. Understand the role of Universal Design in achieving a barrier-free society.

Keywords: Special Needs, Community Health Planning

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Not Answered