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CDC Offers Insight on Caring for Vulnerable Populations During a Disaster

A new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) blog post discusses the challenges of ensuring care for vulnerable populations during and after a disaster.

Each September, during National Preparedness Month, the CDC highlights the roles individuals, states, and local public health departments play in creating resilient, healthy communities.

In the blog, Amy Wolkin, DrPH, MSPH, Vulnerable Populations Officer at CDC’s Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response, outlines lessons learned during a panel at the Natural Hazards Center. She notes that many areas prone to natural disasters already are low-income communities with few resources, high vulnerabilities to disease, and little health care access.

Following a disaster, responders could encounter and have to overcome government distrust, difficulty maintaining organizational resilience, and misconceptions about disabled individuals’ ability to care for themselves. Overcoming these barriers requires:

  • collaborating to provide immediate as well as long-term assistance;
  • engaging the community and ensuring disaster response training is accessible to vulnerable populations;
  • including appropriate representatives from vulnerable populations in disaster preparedness processes; and
  • involving community members who are racial and ethnic minority in disaster mitigation.

Wolkin adds that providers should consider health equity during emergency preparedness, response, and recovery activities to ensure disparities are not inadvertently created or exacerbated.

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About the Author

Michelle Rosenfeld is senior writer/editor at America's Essential Hospitals.