211596 Disaster response: Risk communication with children and adolescents

Monday, November 9, 2009: 9:10 AM

Steven Berkowitz, MD , Department of Psychiatry & Trauma Resilience Initiative for Children and Adolescents, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
The vast majority of disaster preparedness information and risk communication is designed for adults, occasionally for mid to older adolescents and almost never to children under 11 years of age. We expect parents and adult caregivers to be able to naturally interpret the information for their children. Given the highly stressful context of catastrophic events, it is rare that caregivers can communicate information effectively to their children. Most adult caregivers need guidance about how to talk to their children and adolescents. At each phase of development, children's cognitive and emotional development characterizes their understanding of experiences, especially when dangerous and overwhelming. Research has demonstrated that a key protective factor in the face of disaster for both children and adults is social and family support. So, while it is necessary to develop information targeted directly for children and adolescents, it must be paired with guidelines for caregivers so that they can discuss the information with their children. In a sense, the target unit of risk communication is the family. The presenter will discuss various sets of guidelines and informational bulletins for Disaster Risk Communication to which he has contributed under the auspices of the National Center for Children Exposed to Violence and the National Child Traumatic Stress Network. He will present the most effective manner and the appropriate information to provide to children and adolescents at varying stages of development and how to inform care giving adults about risk communication to the children.

Learning Objectives:
At the end of this presentation, participants will be able to: 1. Discuss the key developmental capacities related to risk communication; 2. Discuss the role of adult caregiverís mediation of childrenís experience and providing effective and useful information at times of catastrophe.

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: research in area
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.