181412 Hurricane preparedness in Galveston, Texas: The perspective of vulnerable citizens

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Gretchen VM Stone, PhD, OTR , Occupational Therapy, School of Allied Health Sciences, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, TX
The population least prepared and most affected by natural disasters are our senior citizens with medical, mental and physically handicapping conditions who live below the poverty level. The specific aim of this project was to enhance communication between citizens of Galveston, TX who have few material resources and city officials who are responsible for the health and safety of these citizens in the event of a natural disaster. Following a mandatory evacuation in the wake of Hurricane Rita, investigators from the University of Texas Medical Branch partnered with citizens to identify issues of concern and to develop an interview guide. Subsequently health professions students interviewed 330 citizens who are considered to be most vulnerable. The sample includes 55.5% female, 44.2% male, 34.5 % African American, 19.7% Hispanic or Chicano, 1.8% Asian, 39.4% Caucasian and 4.5% other. 87% of the subjects are 65 or older. Data was cross tabulated to represent relationships among self reports of what people say they would do and what they say they need in the days before an impending disaster. During a forum results of the interviews were interpreted by Galveston city officials and representatives from the community to develop understanding of relationships among level of personal preparedness, decision-making prior to an impending disaster, attitudes, feelings and beliefs about oneself as well as other people living on the island, and a person's current situation, such as number of people in the household, health status, money and access to their own transportation.

Learning Objectives:
Discuss how a university can partner with vulnerable citizens living in a disaster prone area to influence public policy about disaster preparedness. Evaluate a Community Participatory Research model in terms of its impact on public policy in disaster preparedness. Identify information that enhances mutual understanding among citizens and government officials during planning for potential disastrous events. Articulate how interpretation of data is conducted during a forum in which survey results are interpreted by both citizens and city officials.

Keywords: Disasters, Vulnerable Populations

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Occupational Therapy with an earned PhD. I served as PI on this study. I have expertise in serving individuals with chronic health concerns who were of primary interest in this study.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.