The H1N1 Crisis: A Case Study of the Integration of Mental and Behavioral Health in Public Health Crises
ABSTRACT In substantial numbers of affected populations, disasters adversely affect well-being and influence the development of emotional problems and dysfunctional behaviors. Nowhere is the integration of mental and behavioral health into broader public health and medical preparedness and response activities more crucial than in disasters such as the 2009-2010 H1N1 influenza pandemic. The National Biodefense Science Board, recognizing that the mental and behavioral health responses to H1N1 were vital to preserving safety and health for the country, requested that the Disaster Mental Health Subcommittee recommend actions for public health officials to prevent and mitigate adverse behavioral health outcomes during the H1N1 pandemic. The subcommittee's recommendations emphasized vulnerable populations and concentrated on interventions, education and training, and communication and messaging. The subcommittee's H1N1 activities and recommendations provide an approach and template for identifying and addressing future efforts related to newly emerging public health and medical emergencies. The many emotional and behavioral health implications of the crisis and the importance of psychological factors in determining the behavior of members of the public argue for a programmatic integration of behavioral health and science expertise in a comprehensive public health response.
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ABSTRACT: Background This study examined the association between self-reported levels of household disaster preparedness and a range of physical and mental health quality of life outcomes.Methods Data collected from 14 states participating in a large state-based telephone survey were analyzed (n = 104 654). Household disaster-preparedness items included having a 3-day supply of food, water, and prescription medications; a working battery-powered radio and flashlight; an evacuation plan; and a willingness to evacuate when instructed to do so. Quality-of-life items were categorized into 2 domains: physical health (general health, unhealthy physical days, and activity-limited days) and mental health (unhealthy mental days, social and emotional support, and life satisfaction).Results Persons with self-reported impaired mental health were generally less likely to report being prepared for a disaster than those who did not report impairment in each domain. Persons with low life satisfaction were among the least likely to be prepared, followed by those with inadequate social and emotional support, and then by those with frequent mental distress. Persons reporting physical impairments also reported deficits in many of the preparedness items. However, after adjusting for sociodemographic characteristics, some of the associations were attenuated and no longer significant.Conclusion Persons reporting impaired quality of life are vulnerable to increased mental and physical distress during a disaster, and their vulnerability is compounded if they are ill-prepared. Therefore, persons reporting impaired quality of life should be included in the list of vulnerable populations that need disaster preparedness and response outreach.Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness 04/2013; 7(02). DOI:10.1017/dmp.2013.23 · 1.14 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: During public health emergencies, public officials are busy in developing communication strategies to protect the population from existing or potential threats. However, population's social and individual determinants (i.e. education, income, race/ethnicity) may lead to inequalities in individual or group-specific exposure to public health communication messages, and in the capacity to access, process, and act upon the information received by specific sub-groups- a concept defined as communication inequalities.The aims of this literature review are to: 1) characterize the scientific literature that examined issues related to communication to the public during the H1N1 pandemic, and 2) summarize the knowledge gained in our understanding of social determinants and their association with communication inequalities in the preparedness and response to an influenza pandemic.BMC Public Health 05/2014; 14(1):484. DOI:10.1186/1471-2458-14-484 · 2.32 Impact Factor