Online Program

Disaster preparedness among medically vulnerable populations

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Jeffrey Bethel, PhD, College of Public Health and Human Sciences, School of Biological and Population Health Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR
Sloane C. Burke, PhD, CHES, Health Sciences Department: MPH and Public Health Programs, California State University, Northridge, Northridge, CA
Amber Foreman Britt, MPH, CPH, Public Health Health Flight, United States Air Force, APO, AP
Background: Vulnerable populations such as those with poor health, disabilities and chronic diseases are at an increased risk of adverse health outcomes due to natural disasters. The objective of this study was to examine the association between general health status, disability status, chronic disease status and disaster preparedness, respectively, among Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) survey respondents.

Methods: BRFSS data were obtained for six states which implemented the optional general preparedness module from 2006 through 2008. Three dependent variables were analyzed including presence of 4 preparedness items (i.e. food, water, flashlight, radio), emergency evacuation plan, and 3-day supply of medication. Primary independent variables included perceived health status, disability status, and number of chronic diseases. Four multiple logistic regression models were generated to examine the independent associations between the health measures and the three dependent variables, respectively.

Results: Respondents with fair/poor perceived health had a lower odds of having all 4 preparedness items (OR=0.76, 95% CI = 0.65, 0.89) and an emergency evacuation plan (OR=0.89, 95% CI= 0.75, 1.04), and a higher odds of having a 3-day supply of prescription medication (OR=1.34, 95% CI= 1.03, 1.74) than respondents reporting excellent perceived health. Similar results were found among disabled respondents. Results varied for number of chronic diseases.

Conclusions: Vulnerable populations were generally less likely to have household preparedness items but more likely to have medication supplies than their counterparts. Public health officials should target these groups to increase disaster preparedness and researchers can examine why these groups are not prepared.

Learning Areas:


Learning Objectives:
Describe the level of disaster preparedness (natural or man-made) among medically vulnerable populations. Identify specific subgroups of the medically vulnerable population that are ill-prepared for disasters.

Keyword(s): Disasters, Chronic Diseases

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have been the Principal Investigator on projects examining household disaster preparedness in the U.S. and have expertise in disaster epidemiology.
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.