199684 Experiential training in disaster preparedness communication to serve groups with lower literacy: An innovative graduate health education module

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Daniela B. Friedman, PhD , Department of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC
India D. Rose, PhD Candidate, MPH , Department of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC
Background: Aftermaths of disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and the Indian Ocean tsunami highlight the immediate need to increase education in emergency preparedness communication for public health students. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention consider improving emergency communication a top research priority.

Objectives: (1) To increase students' understanding of disaster communication techniques; (2) To consider strategies for reaching vulnerable groups with lower literacy with disaster preparedness messages.

Methods: The training module was piloted in a graduate-level health communication seminar in Spring 2008 (n=9 students). It is being implemented again in Spring 2009 (n=15). Students complete pre/post training surveys containing Likert and open-ended questions. In session one, an overview of disaster communication is provided through lecture and video. In class two, students learn about health literacy and practice developing plain-language preparedness messages. In class three, students work in groups to create a disaster communication plan and messages for a population of their choosing (e.g., older seniors with limited literacy) which they present in class four to a panel of risk communication specialists from the university and local health department.

Results: Analysis of Likert-type survey items showed significant improvement in students' knowledge about crisis communication and confidence regarding use of communication principles to develop clear disaster messages (p<.05). In responses to open-ended questions, students reported enjoying the “practical experience of developing messages” and learning the “importance of media and health professionals working together.”

Conclusions: The educational module appears to be effective in engaging graduate students actively in disaster communication for vulnerable populations.

Learning Objectives:
1. Explain an innovative approach for engaging public health students in disaster communication and disaster preparedness message development. 2. Discuss the importance of using plain language messages when communicating with vulnerable populations about disaster preparedness.

Keywords: Communication, Public Health Education

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: In this study, I am responsible for data collection, entry, and analysis. I was also responsible for developing the abstract with the assistance and contribution of co-author Friedman.
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.