142nd APHA Annual Meeting and Exposition

Annual Meeting Recordings are now available for purchase

Vulnerable Populations in Emergencies and Disasters: The Reality of Puerto Rico

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

Ralph Rivera-Gutiérrez, MSW, PhD , Department of Health Services Administration, Graduate School of Public Health, University of Puerto Rico, Medical Sciences Campus, UPR-Center for Public Health Preparedness, San Juan, PR
Background/Purpose: The impact of disasters on the population does not discriminate on grounds of sex, age, socioeconomic status or social status. However, some populations may be more vulnerable in an emergency or disaster. Vulnerable populations are those with high risks of disease, injury and disability, and often lack the resources to address their problems.

Methods: This analysis utilizes data from seven secondary databases of vulnerable populations from a comprehensive hazard and vulnerability assessment (HVA) conducted of the Puerto Rico public health, medical and mental health systems. The HVA identified and documented the potential hazards, vulnerabilities and risks faced by these three systems. This data includes various socio-demographic factors, and information of persons with disabilities, persons experiencing homelessness, and cancer and dialysis patients.

Results: In Puerto Rico, about half of the population (48%) is under the poverty level. About 15% of the population of Puerto Rico is older than 65, which indicates an aging population. In addition, 20% of the population has at least one disability.

Conclusions: Puerto Rico is vulnerable to a great diversity of natural phenomena such as hurricanes, tsunamis, flooding and landslides due to its geographic position in a tropical and seismic active zone. Therefore, it is important to improve emergency planning and capacity to respond to the special needs of vulnerable populations during an emergency or disaster.

Learning Areas:

Public health or related organizational policy, standards, or other guidelines
Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
Describe vulnerable populations in Puerto Rico who may be adversely affected by a major emergency or disaster.

Keyword(s): Emergency Preparedness, Disasters

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have been the PI and Director of the University of Puerto Rico Center for Public Health Preparedness for the past 9 years. I have been PI of multiple federally funded projects focusing on public health emergency and disaster preparedness trainings and research. Our research focuses on evaluating the structures, capabilities, and performance of public health systems for preparedness and emergency response activities.
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.

Back to: 3304.0: Natural disasters