The North Carolina Institute for Public Health (NCIPH) at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health has engaged in a variety of activities over the past project year to address the needs of vulnerable populations through direct funding from public health partners and the support of two CDC-funded public health preparedness projects, the UNC Preparedness and Emergency Response Learning Center (UNC PERLC) and the North Carolina Preparedness and Emergency Response Center (NC PERRC).
Vulnerable and At-Risk Populations Resource Guide – This guide was originally developed in North Carolina as a quick online tool to provide a custom list of resources with accompanying jurisdictional maps to aid local health departments in preparedness planning for vulnerable and at-risk populations.
From its introduction in January 2012, the original guide has had more than 700 users, including 95 percent of North Carolina’s local health departments.
In June 2014, the NCIPH team launched the new guide on a more dynamic, interactive platform at www.VARPguide.com. With the new platform, state and local health departments, hospitals, emergency management, and other community-based organizations in five states – Georgia, New Mexico, North Carolina, West Virginia, and Washington – can explore and use the new Vulnerable and At-Risk Populations Resource Guide to help state and local agencies better plan for their at-risk populations.
Community Health Assessments for Vulnerable Populations – As part of its work with local health departments in North Carolina, NCIPH provides technical assistance and just-in-time training to conduct community health assessments (CHAs) using the Community Assessment for Public Health Emergency Response (CASPER) methodology to collect information from community members.
CHAs help guide strategic public health planning and offer an opportunity for residents to share their thoughts on the county/region’s most pressing health needs.
The community health opinion surveys conducted as part of CHAs also serve as a valuable opportunity for local public health staff members to engage in survey development, data collection and data analysis so as to be better prepared to apply these skills during an emergency, such as a foodborne outbreak or a hurricane.
In 2013, two of these CHA projects placed particular emphasis on vulnerable and at-risk populations. In Durham County, NCIPH provided technical assistance for conducting a health opinion surveys about community health issues and emergency preparedness among the Latino population. Additionally, in Wake County, NCIPH worked with partners to collect focus group data from Latinos, homeless, persons living with mental health/substance abuse illnesses and persons living with disabilities.
More information about CHA technical assistance is available here.
Photo: Participating in the fall 2013 Community Health Assessment in Durham County (N.C.) were Ms. Kathryn Peebles (left), health behavior master’s student at the Gillings School, Mr. Matt Simon (center), staff member in charge of the community data collection effort at NCIPH, and Mr. Humberto Rodriguez (right), now a Gillings School master’s student in health behavior.
Mr. Bill Gentry, director of the Gillings School’s Community Preparedness and Disaster Management Program, works regularly with communities and organizations to train and prepare for natural and human-caused disasters. Most recently, he conducted a training exercise with emergency first-responders based on a scenario in which people who had survived a plane crash had to be rescued from a lake. (Read more here.)
Mr. Gentry prepared a slide reminding people to visit ready.gov (below) for more information about disaster situations and how to prepare for them.
“National Preparedness Month highlights the importance of all of us – not just responders – becoming prepared and aware,” he said. “When the public is prepared, responders are able to focus on those who are truly in need of assistance.”