Disaster preparedness among medically vulnerable populations

Bethel JW, Foreman AN, Burke SCAm J Prev Med.
2011 Feb;40(2):139-43. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2010.10.020.

Source:  Department of Public Health, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC, USA. bethelj@ecu.edu

BACKGROUND:  Vulnerable populations such as those with poor health, disabilities, and chronic diseases are at an increased risk of adverse health outcomes resulting from natural disasters.

PURPOSE:  The objective of this study was to examine the association of general health status, disability status, and chronic disease status, respectively, with disaster preparedness, among Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) survey respondents.

METHODS:  BRFSS data were obtained for six states that implemented the optional general preparedness module from 2006 through 2008. Three dependent variables were analyzed, including presence of four 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. Data were analyzed in 2010 and accounted for BRFSS complex sampling design.

RESULTS:  Respondents with fair/poor perceived health (OR=0.76, 95% CI=0.65, 0.89); a disability (activity limitation; OR=0.81, 95% CI=0.73, 0.90); and three or more chronic diseases (OR=0.77, 95% CI=0.58, 1.02) were less likely to have all four preparedness items than their healthier counterparts. However, all these groups were more likely to have a 3-day supply of medication than their healthier counterparts. Results varied for presence of an emergency evacuation plan.

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 levels of disaster preparedness.