Latinos Unprepared for Emergencies

Vida en el Valle, News Report, Martín E. Martínez Posted: Sep 03, 2009

SACRAMENTO -- California's minority communities, especially Latinos, are the least-prepared to respond to public health emergencies like fires, floods and diseases.

A report by Drexel University in Sacramento finds that while California is one of the nation's leading states in taking actions to get its racially and ethnically diverse communities to prepare for an emergency, there remain persistent individual and institutional barriers.

Latinos are less prepared for an emergency, the report said, due mainly to the language barrier and cultural issues.

"The problem is that Latinos and minorities in general have less access to information about emergencies because most of this information is just in English and the few literature available in Spanish is very limited, which most of the times never reaches those communities," said Dr. Alonzo Plough, director of Emergency Preparedness and Response at the Los Ángeles County Department of Public Health.

He said his county is currently translating all the information available into Spanish. Plough said the same should be done statewide.

"That is the big part of the solution," said Plough.

The report found that non-white ethnic groups and non-English speakers are less prepared compared to whites and English speakers. More Latinos and Asian/Pacific Islanders report their workplaces as not being prepared compared to whites. And non-English speakers also report that their workplaces are less prepared.

Plough said the report seeks to be a guide to improve quality and equality in preparing for and responding to diverse communities.

"We are increasingly focused on ensuring that our culturally diverse communities are represented across disaster planning, response and recovery," said Plough.

The study suggests:

Ensuring the inclusion of community representatives across preparedness and response planning;

Implementation and evaluation;

Focusing on preparedness needs within their broader community contexts, such as poverty, housing, employment, and transportation.

Encouraging greater flexibility in allocating state and local funds to support innovative partnerships with community and faith-based organizations;

Delivery of culturally and linguistically appropriate programs and services.

"California is a state rich in racial and ethnic diversity that has a long history of facing and responding to a wide range of disasters, and has devoted significant attention at the state and local levels to tailor preparedness efforts for its diverse communities," said Dr. Dennis P. Andrulis, director of the Center for Health Equality.

He added that this was the first explicit report to review and assess the effectiveness of current programs, and identify challenges and gaps toward reaching and engaging all communities in promoting effective preparedness efforts.

Konane Martínez, director of the National Latino Research Center, said there is a general concern about the budget cuts that could stop advances achieved in past years regarding preparedness of racial and ethnic minorities.

"We have made great progress reaching Latino and all other minority groups, but we are really concerned about the possibility of losing resources and stopping the progress of our work," said Martínez

The study was conducted by researchers at the Center for Health Equality at the Drexel University School of Public Health with support from The California Endowment and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Minority Health.

The researchers interviewed individuals representing a range of regions, sectors and areas of expertise within California.

Related Articles:

Preparing the Americas for the Next Big Disaster

Seven Years Later: Is the U.S.-Mexico Border Prepared for Environmental Disaster?




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