186566 Title: Emergency response and public health: Balancing demands of traditional responsibilities and being a first responder

Tuesday, October 28, 2008: 9:15 AM

Nancy VanDevanter, DrPH, RN , College of Nursing, New York University, New York, NY
David M. Abramson, PhD MPH , National Center for Disaster Preparedness, Columbia University, New York, NY
Joyce Moon Howard, DrPH , Sociomedical Sciences, Columbia University, New York, NY
Perri Leviss, MPM , Consultant, Barrington, RI
Peggy Honore, DBA , Mississippi Department of Health, Jackson, MS
Since 9/11 federal funds directed toward public health departments for training in disaster preparedness has dramatically increased resulting in changing expectations of public health workers roles in responding to disasters. In order to better understand the roles and functions of public health workers in disaster we conducted an oral history of the public health response to Hurricane Katrina with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. In depth interviews were conducted in the summer of 2006 with over 50 state and local public health officials at all levels of the organization in the City of New Orleans, the states of Louisiana and Mississippi. A thematic analysis of the transcribed interviews revealed differences in understanding of the public health workers role as first responders and challenges in balancing traditional responsibilities with new demands. While leadership in public health agencies have embraced the new role in responding to disaster, not all staff have fully integrated the concept. Challenges to integrating the new role arise from a variety of factors: difficulty in managing family responsibilities and work demands in disaster, lack of planning for family evacuation/safety, perceived lack of emergency response skills and concerns about personal safety. We will discuss the policy, planning and training implications of these findings.

Learning Objectives:
Learning Objectives: The participant will be able to articulate the challenges to adoption of the new role of public health workers in disaster response as well as potential strategies to facilitate integration of traditional and disaster response roles.

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am the principal investigator for 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.