Nav: Home

Preparing low-income communities for hurricanes begins with outreach, Rutgers study finds

May 20, 2019

Governments seeking to help their most vulnerable residents prepare for hurricanes and other disasters should create community-based information campaigns ahead of time, according to a Rutgers study of economically disadvantaged New Jerseyans in the areas hardest hit by Superstorm Sandy.

The study, published in the journal Disasters, found that 65 percent of economically vulnerable Sandy survivors intend to take active steps to protect themselves and families in advance of the next major disaster. Those steps include evacuating early or purchasing necessary supplies. Emergency response agencies can help by working with churches and other community organizations to learn about specific needs, such as transportation issues, in lower-income communities, the researchers found.

The researchers, at multiple Rutgers University-New Brunswick and Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences institutions, interviewed 599 people at federally qualified health centers, which serve uninsured and underinsured residents, in the counties most heavily damaged by Sandy. The 2019 Atlantic hurricane season begins June 1.

"When governments create disaster response strategies, it is essential that they understand how people in affected communities will actually prepare for and experience these events," said lead researcher Joanna Burger, a professor of biology at Rutgers-New Brunswick's School of Arts and Sciences, the Rutgers Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute and the Rutgers School of Public Health. "Our study of economically vulnerable individuals affected by Hurricane Sandy yields important tips on how emergency planners can prepare for disaster impacts in underprivileged communities."

Some respondents said small grocery stores in their neighborhoods ran out of canned goods and water before Sandy's arrival, which made post-storm conditions more difficult. Some said they went to shelters that were under-equipped to provide appropriate food for people with diabetes, or that children with asthma were stuck in water-damaged residences with increasing mold problems.

Citing the respondents' experiences before and after Sandy and their concerns about future disasters, the report offers the following recommendations for emergency planners seeking to help economically vulnerable residents:
  • Reach out to community organizations well before the next crisis, and work to create community focus groups to identify local needs. A community with few cars, for example, could establish transportation contingency plans.

  • Public awareness campaigns should provide advice on how people can look after their loved ones during a disaster, such as identifying a designated meeting place, in addition to obvious advice about stocking up on batteries, food and water.

  • Awareness campaigns should offer advice on maintaining health and safety in the weeks after a long-term disaster.

  • Provide information before, during and after a disaster in languages other than English, and via multiple forms of media.

  • Provide more evacuation shelters that are better equipped to meet the needs of people with health-related or other dietary restrictions.

  • Provide a method to check on senior citizens and on undocumented residents who may be afraid to seek help.
"Government and non-governmental agencies can consider these insights now - that is, before the next hurricane. Many of these ideas could be implemented easily. It was enlightening to learn that the majority of respondents plan to take personal action to reduce their risk, and are prepared to listen to governmental advice on how to protect themselves and their families," Burger said.
-end-
Also contributing to the study were Michael Gochfeld, professor emeritus at Rutgers Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute and Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, and Clifton Lacy, professor at the Rutgers School of Communication and Information and at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

Rutgers University

Related Public Health Articles:

The Lancet Public Health: Ageism linked to poorer health in older people in England
Ageism may be linked with poorer health in older people in England, according to an observational study of over 7,500 people aged over 50 published in The Lancet Public Health journal.
Study: Public transportation use linked to better public health
Promoting robust public transportation systems may come with a bonus for public health -- lower obesity rates.
Bloomberg American Health Initiative releases special public health reports supplement
With US life expectancy now on the decline for two consecutive years, the Bloomberg American Health Initiative is releasing a supplement to Public Health Reports, the scholarly journal of the US Surgeon General.
Data does the heavy lifting: Encouraging new public health approaches to promote the health benefits of muscle-strengthening exercise (MSE)
According to a new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, almost 75 percent of US adults do not comply with public health guidelines recommending two or more muscle-strengthening exercise (MSE) sessions a week, with nearly 60 percent of the population doing no MSE at all.
The Lancet Public Health: Moderate carbohydrate intake may be best for health
Low-carb diets that replace carbohydrates with proteins and fats from plant sources associated with lower risk of mortality compared to those that replace carbohydrates with proteins and fat from animal sources.
Mass. public safety, public health agencies collaborate to address the opioid epidemic
A new study shows that public health and public safety agencies established local, collaborative programs in Massachusetts to connect overdose survivors and their personal networks with addiction treatment, harm reduction, and other community support services following a non-fatal overdose.
Cyber attacks can threaten public health
Gordon and Landman have authored a Perspective piece in the New England Journal of Medicine that addresses the growing threat of attacks on information systems and the potential implications on public health.
Public health guidelines aim to lower health risks of cannabis use
Canada's Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines, released today with the endorsement of key medical and public health organizations, provide 10 science-based recommendations to enable cannabis users to reduce their health risks.
Study clusters health behavior groups to broaden public health interventions
A new study led by a University of Kansas researcher has used national health statistics and identified how to cluster seven health behavior groups based on smoking status, alcohol use, physical activity, physician visits and flu vaccination are associated with mortality.
Public health experts celebrate 30 years of CDC's prevention research solutions for communities with health disparities
It has been 30 years since CDC created the Prevention Research Centers (PRC) Program, currently a network of 26 academic institutions across the US dedicated to moving new discoveries into the communities that need them.
More Public Health News and Public Health Current Events

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2019.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Accessing Better Health
Essential health care is a right, not a privilege ... or is it? This hour, TED speakers explore how we can give everyone access to a healthier way of life, despite who you are or where you live. Guests include physician Raj Panjabi, former NYC health commissioner Mary Bassett, researcher Michael Hendryx, and neuroscientist Rachel Wurzman.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#544 Prosperity Without Growth
The societies we live in are organised around growth, objects, and driving forward a constantly expanding economy as benchmarks of success and prosperity. But this growing consumption at all costs is at odds with our understanding of what our planet can support. How do we lower the environmental impact of economic activity? How do we redefine success and prosperity separate from GDP, which politicians and governments have focused on for decades? We speak with ecological economist Tim Jackson, Professor of Sustainable Development at the University of Surrey, Director of the Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Propserity, and author of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

An Announcement from Radiolab