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Preparedness Education for Vulnerable Populations

Association of Schools of Public Health

January 1, 2007

Centers for Public Health Preparedness (CPHP), funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), were initiated in 2000 to strengthen terrorism and emergency preparedness by linking academic expertise with state and local health agency needs. The program has grown to become an important national resource for the development, delivery, and evaluation of preparedness education. CDC supports the Association of Schools of Public Health (ASPH) as the national convener of the CPHP Network so as to enhance collaboration among the CPHP and, with their government and practice partners, minimize duplication in development of materials, and maximize outreach of existing resources. In 2005-2006 CPHP “collaboration groups” continued to focus on reviewing preparedness resources and to develop guides and reports responsive to the training needs of the public health workforce for all-hazards situations.

The ultimate purpose of this list of 323 educational resources organized by eight special populations, developed by the 2005-2006 ASPH/CDC Preparedness Education for Vulnerable Populations Collaboration Group (collaboration group), is to enhance the ability of public health and emergency management practitioners at the federal, state and local levels to effectively define, locate and reach vulnerable populations and protect them in the event of public health emergencies. Few people will forget the tragedy wrought by the Gulf Hurricanes of 2005, especially the experiences of poor, inner city New Orleans residents left behind after most residents abandoned the city in advance of Katrina. They were unprepared for the events that followed, as were those who sought to assist them. Collaboration group members also recalled the nursing home residents who lost their lives in a bus fire as they fled from Hurricane Rita, as well as those that suffered earlier in the Loma Prieta (California) and Kobe (Japan) earthquakes, and other disasters in planning and developing this resource. The 2005-2006 ASPH/CDC Preparedness Education for Vulnerable Populations Collaboration Group is committed to learning from history and to reducing the likelihood of unnecessary illness, injuries and deaths in the future.

Who is especially vulnerable in public health emergencies, including natural disasters such as the hurricanes and earthquakes mentioned above, as well as terrorist incidents and emerging infections such as pandemic flu? The collaboration group has chosen a definition of vulnerable populations first developed by the Iowa Department of Public Health Center for Disaster Operations and Response:

“Any individual, group or community whose circumstances create barriers to obtaining or understanding information, or the ability to react as the general population has been requested to proceed during all phases of emergency management. Circumstances that may create barriers include, but are not limited to: age, physical, mental, emotional or cognitive status, culture, ethnicity, religion, language, citizenship, geography, or socio-economic status.”

The collaboration group moved from this overall definition of vulnerability to determining specific special or at-risk populations to target in the first year of collaboration. Members found this to be a useful approach, acknowledging that categories overlap in real life and that public health responders are ultimately concerned about real individuals who, for example, have a disability, are elderly, poor, institutionalized and unable to speak or read English. The grid provides only a start on the many groups that require special consideration in preparedness planning, and it includes the following populations: Economically Disadvantaged Populations, Ethnic and Racial Populations, Mentally Ill Populations, Older Adult Populations, Pediatric Populations, Populations with Disabilities, Rural Populations, Spanish-Speaking Populations.


ASPH Preparedness Education for Vulnerable Populations