Date Published: 7 July 2008

Flood relief services not used by many victims

Health News from the United States of America (USA).

This summer, as the Midwest suffers from severe flooding, a new study finds that most flood victims do not utilize available disaster relief services. An accompanying editorial suggest that the findings can help agencies such as the Red Cross and the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) to better distribute relief resources. The study and editorial are published in the latest issue of the American Medical Association (AMA) Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness journal.

"Floods are the most common type of disaster in the United States and among the most deadly worldwide," said Jim P. Stimpson, PhD, University of North Texas Health Science Center. "Victims may have the resources to cope with one flood using family support, insurance or personal savings, but additional floods tap into an increasingly lower supply of resources until individuals may have no other recourse other than to seek external assistance."

The study, "Seeking Help for Disaster Services After a Flood," measured how the frequency of exposure to a flood is associated with the probability of seeking help from a disaster related service agency. Around three-quarters of flood victims who experience a flood or floods never seek help. The number of those who do seek help rises slightly as the number of floods they experience increases.

The study also looked at the population characteristics of individuals most likely to seek help. It found that racial and ethnic minorities, rural residents, individuals experiencing economic hardship, and those with low levels of perceived social support are more inclined to seek help. The study looked at prospective cohort data for 1,735 respondents of the Iowa Health Poll following the Great Flood of 1993.

According to the editorial, the evidence indicates that disaster planners must make more pointed efforts to reduce barriers to accessing recovery services. A potential tactic is to expand partnerships with community organizations, such as faith-based organizations, to help bring resources to victims. Another is to address transportation and communication issues that may preclude some individuals from seeking aid.

"The mere availability of response and recovery services will not help if victims are unable to use them," said lead editorial author Italo Subbarao, DO, MBA. "The study findings must be considered when formulating future disaster response plans to engage the public in pre- and post-event outreach activities."


Source: American Medical Association (AMA).

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