240842 Disaster preparedness, food, and food safety issues among limited English proficient immigrants

Monday, October 31, 2011

Vishnu Nepal, MPH , Office of Surveillance and Public Health Preparedness, City of Houston, Health and Human Services, Houston, TX
Deborah P. Scott, MPH , Sage Associates, Inc., Houston, TX
Beverly Gor, EdD, RD, LD , Center for Research on Minority Health, University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX
Background Current disaster preparedness plans do not adequately address the needs of the immigrants with limited English Proficiency (LEP). Information about food related concerns of immigrants during disasters can provide an insight for preparedness planners.

Method City of Houston Department of Health and Human Services conducted sixteen focus group discussions and an equal number of key informant interviews among Chinese, Vietnamese, Spanish and Somali speaking immigrants after the Hurricane Ike We analyzed the food and food safety related issues of the immigrants as they relate to disasters.

Results Four key themes emerged from the discussions regarding securing adequate food supplies and practicing safe food handling during disasters: 1) Perception about canned food (e.g. many LEP immigrants considered canned food inferior in quality to fresh food), 2) Limited food choice (e.g. bread and water, because grocery stores were closed during disasters or because of impassable roads or lack of transportation to markets), 3) Lack of information (e.g. Many were unaware of where to get ice and water during hurricane relief efforts because information was not provided in their language through familiar communication channels), and 4) Worries of viabilities of food (e.g. some threw away food that was probably safe to eat, but were worried about its viability).

Conclusion Disaster preparedness communication plans targeted to LEPs should address the perceptions about canned food and other concerns of LEPs by providing disaster related information in specific LEP languages using familiar communication channels. Disaster preparedness plans targeted to all citizens should address concerns related to limited food choice and worries of viability of food.

Learning Areas:
Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
To discuss the barriers faced by limited English proficient communities during and after natural disasters in accessing adequate nutrition and hydration. To list foods for periods of power outage or inaccessibility to grocery stores.

Keywords: Disasters, Immigrants

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I coordinated the project.
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.