142nd APHA Annual Meeting and Exposition

Annual Meeting Recordings are now available for purchase

Role of Local Public Health in Disaster Recovery: Successes and Challenges after Hurricanes Irene and Sandy

142nd APHA Annual Meeting and Exposition (November 15 - November 19, 2014): http://www.apha.org/events-and-meetings/annual
Monday, November 17, 2014

Lauren Walsh, MPH , Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, National Center for Disaster Medicine and Public Health, Rockville, MD
Hillary Craddock, MPH , National Center for Disaster Medicine and Public Health, Rockville, MD
Background: Local public health agencies are the hub of the public health emergency preparedness system. These agencies play a frontline role throughout the disaster life cycle, including the long-term recovery. As disaster health training is not currently a requirement of most degree-granting programs, nor is it consistently provided by local public health agencies, little is known about the capacity of the local public health workforce to lead and participate in disaster recovery activities. Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted among leaders in the health and safety sectors in five locations affected by either Hurricane Irene or Superstorm Sandy. Salient themes were identified using a mixed-methods approach of analysis. Results: Local public health agencies are responsible for a wide variety of activities through the response and recovery phases of a major disaster. While many roles were planned for, others were unanticipated and required staff and resources beyond the capacity of the department. The local public health agency workforce is also comprised of professionals with diverse educational backgrounds, but few received training in the core competencies of disaster health. Systematic, bureaucratic, and political obstacles to effective workforce participation in recovery were also uncovered. Conclusion: Locally-led recovery begins with empowered individuals. The successes and challenges uncovered in this study highlight the opportunities for improved training of local public health agency workers in regards to their potential role in the long-term community recovery. It also identifies policy changes that may improve the ability public health practitioners to meaningfully lead in long-term recovery activities.

Learning Areas:

Assessment of individual and community needs for health education
Public health or related education
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
List the most common challenges encountered by local public health agency workers after Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene and Superstorm Sandy. Identify opportunities for improved engagement of the local public health workforce in long-term disaster recovery activities within their communities. Compare the experiences of each of the five case study locations to better understand how recovery experiences may differ as a function of space and time.

Keyword(s): Disasters, Emergency Preparedness

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: For this project, I organized and took part in all of the Superstorm Sandy research trips, as well as coding and analyzing all of the data from Hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy. As a researcher, my interests include community-level disaster resilience and recovery.
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.

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