250417 Interactions of Formal and Informal Community Communications during Natural Disasters: Lessons from Hurricane Katrina for Emergency Preparedness Policy

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Vincent Mendy, MPH, CPH , Mississippi Delta Health Collaborative, Mississippi State Department of Health, Greenwood, MS
Olugbemiga Tanilepada Ekundayo, MD, MPH, DrPH , Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics, Jackson State University, Jackson, MS
Hussain Al-Fadhli, PhD , Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice, Jackson State University, Jackson, MS
Daniel Sarpong, PhD , RTRN - Data and Technology Coordinating Center, Jackson State University, Jackson, MS
Adejuwonlo Ekundayo, MB, CHB , Division of Research, RTE Systems Corp, Yaba, Lagos, Nigeria
Introduction: Research on experience of response to hurricane Katrina indicated wide differences in communications between formal governmental systems and individual family social formations. These differences include communication on warning, evacuation transportation, resource access and provision of help to reduce harm and support recovery. However, how individuals and families perceive usefulness and effectiveness of communications with elements of the formal and informal systems has not been well researched. We report our findings on the perceptions of hurricane Katrina survivors regarding their communication with formal and informal systems.

Methods: We define informal communication systems as family and social networks, and formal systems as organizational and governmental entities. Working through a Community Advisory Board that was established, we recruited Katrina survivors in Coastal, Southern and Central Mississippi. A questionnaire was used to collect data including participant's communication network, contact, trust, importance and help received before and during Hurricane Katrina. Associations between communication systems, trust of information, utilization of information and help received were analyzed.

Results: Two hundred and twenty-three participants were recruited. Participants tended to trust information from family members and informal social networks. Also, survivors tended to contact informal sources first and act on information received. The usefulness of communication practices for actual help received was mixed.

Conclusion: Informal communication systems tend to be more trusted and information from them acted on by survivors than formal systems. Policies that enhance the role of informal communication systems and their interaction with formal systems are encouraged for public emergency and disaster preparedness.

Learning Areas:
Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs
Other professions or practice related to public health
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Public health or related education
Public health or related public policy
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
1. List different uses of informal communication during and after a disaster event. 2. Identify differences between informal and formal communications 3. Identify perceptions of information usefulness among survivors 4. Identify patterns of information utilization among Katrina Survivors 5. Define an Informal Communication System

Keywords: Community Health Planning, Health Education

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: Graduate Research Assistant
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.