208634 New tools to identify and address the emergency preparedness needs of populations with low trust in public health

Monday, November 9, 2009: 10:45 AM

Malcolm V. Williams, MPP, PhD , RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, CA

Implementing policies, programs, and plans for disasters requires participation from all populations, including those most vulnerable to harm during an emergency. Trust in the institutions of public health is critical to this effort. Yet, even the most effective organizations may not be trusted by vulnerable populations (VPs). As a result, some populations are less likely to heed warning messages or access available resources during an emergency.


Two tools developed by RAND aid public health efforts in this work. First we will highlight findings from a new report on critical approaches for planning for the needs of VPs, including promising strategies to overcome distrust. We evaluated response protocols that address the special needs of VPs (e.g., evacuation plans) as well as successful models for collaboration with representatives of VPs. Secondly, we will demonstrate a publicly accessible, user-friendly, web-based GIS tool that helps state and local health departments map VPs and identify regions of high need.


Incorporating the needs of VPs into public health preparedness entails both identifying and addressing the barriers they face, and engaging in specific strategies that engender trust. While planning for VPs is a required HD function, they still need tools such as these to help them focus their attention on VPs and identify pressing areas of high need in their communities.


Public health departments and other agencies working with vulnerable populations that use these tools will be able to more fully address the trust concerns of these populations.

Learning Objectives:
Identifying low trust as a critical facet of vulnerability and potential strategies needed to overcome it. Discussing successful practices used by health departments to overcome low trust. Demonstrating how a new web-based geospatial tool for mapping and visualizing indicators of vulnerability might be used in an overall strategy to overcome low trust.

Keywords: Emergency, Vulnerable Populations

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: 2007 Ph.D., Health Policy, Harvard University Dissertation: Individual, Clinical, and Contextual Factors Affecting Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care Quality 1997 M.P.P. Georgetown University Public Policy Institute 1994 B.A. in History and Psychology, Bucknell University SELECTED PRESENTATIONS Jeanne Ringel, Malcolm Williams, and Maggie Weden, “Addressing the Needs of Vulnerable Populations in Public Health Emergency Preparedness Planning and Response.” Public Health Preparedness Summit, February 2009. Malcolm Williams, “Do African-Americans Distrust Health Care Providers More Than Whites?” Invited Speaker Series, Department of Sociology, University of Colorado, Boulder, May 2007. Malcolm Williams, Moderator, “Foundations’ Research & Policy Agendas,” Academy Health Annual Research Meeting, June 2003.
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.