Online Program

Understanding knowledge and utilization of environmental health assessments of congregate shelter facilities during disasters--a survey of US states and territories

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Miguel A. Cruz, MPH, Robert Stempel College of Public Health and Social Work, Florida International University, Miami, FL
Muni Rubens, MBBS, MPH, Robert Stempel College of Public Health and Social Work, Florida International University, Miami, FL
Karen L. Levin, RN, MPH, MCHES, National Center for Disaster Preparedness, Columbia University, New York, NY
Environmental health rapid needs assessments of congregate disaster shelter facilities are assessments usually carried out during disasters or emergencies. Public health agencies today use information provided by environmental health assessments of hygiene and sanitary conditions to better protect the health and safety of shelter occupants from diseases and other environmental health hazards. As of today, no one has ever documented the use and utilization of these assessments by state and territorial environmental health jurisdictions. A survey of all US states, the district of Columbia, and 5 territorial environmental health departments (n=56) was conducted to ascertain the knowledge, utilization, development of procedures and assessment tools for conducting shelter assessments. The survey also documented participation in shelter assessment training, planning and collaboration with partners by state and territorial jurisdictions. A 9 page self-administered survey containing 31 closed and open text questions was used to elicit responses from participants. Frequencies and descriptive analysis done to describe jurisdiction, familiarity and utilization environmental health shelter assessments by survey respondents. The concept of environmental health shelter assessments as a regular response activity in disaster situations is relatively new. However, these assessments provide valuable information needed for public health action. The information obtained during this survey adds value to the argument for a more frequent use of environmental health shelter assessments during disasters. Also, our findings highlighted a need for developing standard assessments methods and procedures, as well as training for jurisdictions responsible for assessing shelter facilities during disasters.

Learning Areas:

Environmental health sciences
Occupational health and safety
Protection of the public in relation to communicable diseases including prevention or control
Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
Describe the utilization of environmental health assessments in state and territorial jurisdictions. Discuss barriers to the implementation of these activities in jurisdictions. Analyze factors for adoption and implementation in these jurisdictions

Keyword(s): Needs Assessment, Environmental Health Hazards

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am the principal investigator conducting this research.
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.