|Preparedness center studies reproductive health after a disaster|
When planning for disaster recovery, many obvious needs come to mind: food, water, shelter, clothing. But what about prenatal care for pregnant women? Or access to birth control? Or the impact of disaster-related stress on families caring for young babies?
To find out more about women's reproductive heath needs following a disaster, the North Carolina Center for Public Health Preparedness (NCCPHP) conducted a survey of women between the ages of 18 and 44 in two counties in Georgia that were devastated by floods in September 2009.
"Our goal was to reach women of reproductive age and learn if the flooding, often a problem in North Carolina, led to any unique problems for them, such as trouble accessing prenatal care, increases in stress or loss of health insurance," said Jennifer Horney, assistant director of NCCPHP.
Interviewers included staff from NCCPHP and its Team Epi-Aid student volunteer group from the Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, program officials from the CDC, the Student Outbreak and Response Team (SORT) from the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University and staff from the Cobb and Douglas (Georgia) Public Health Department. Team Epi-Aid and SORT both allow public health students to gain real-world public health experience while providing state and local public health departments with extra manpower for emergencies or short-term projects.
"This was the first time we have partnered with another graduate student response group," said Meredith Davis, Team Epi-Aid coordinator. "It was a great opportunity for Team Epi-Aid students to work side-by-side with SORT students to accomplish this assessment."
The assessment used GPS-equipped field data collectors and a two-stage cluster sampling method, in which a computer program randomly selects a census block group and then a specific address to visit. The interviewers then asked participants to refer them to any women in the community who were pregnant or had given birth within the past 6 months.
Of the fourteen pregnant and postpartum women interviewed, two had damage to their homes. One experienced a loss of income due to the disaster, which led her to be eligible for Medicaid after previously being uninsured. Seven women reported family stressors and needs post-flood that included death of family members, a partner in jail, divorce or separation, problems paying bills, stressful living conditions and problems getting aid. Ten women felt they needed services such as housing, food, transportation, daycare, dental and medical services, information on breastfeeding, help to quit smoking, school or vocational training and information about H1N1.
This pilot assessment is part of a toolkit being developed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that will be used by local health departments in the U.S. to identify unmet reproductive health needs in a community during recovery from a disaster.
"Information from this assessment will help guide future policy and interventions," said Horney. "It is important to ensure that public health disaster preparedness measures are inclusive of the specific needs of pregnant and postpartum women, in addition to all women of reproductive age."
|Last updated November 23, 2009|