|CDC to Publish Guide: Identifying Vulnerable Older Adults and Legal Preparedness Options for Increasing Their Protection during Public Health Emergencies: A Cross-Sector Guide for States and Communities|
|Rebecca Polinsky, J.D., Research and Practice Fellow, Public Health Law Program, Office for State, Tribal, Local, and Territorial Support, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention|
We cannot always know with certainty which groups of people will be most affected by future public health emergencies; however, events such as Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, have shown that some characteristics of older adults put them at greater risk of illness and death during many types of emergencies. For example, older adults may have impaired mobility, diminished sensory awareness, multiple chronic health conditions, and social and economic limitations—all of which can impair their ability to prepare for, respond to, and adapt during emergencies.1
Emergencies can also disrupt the support systems that are relied upon by many older adults. For many, independent living is made possible only with help from friends, family, and in-home services that provide meals, home-based health care, and assistance with chores and personal care needs. In fact, the majority (93%) of Medicare enrollees aged 65 years or older live in the community, rather than in nursing homes or other congregate settings. Nearly one-third of this group live alone.2
In October 2009, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Healthy Aging Program and Public Health Law Program received funding from the CDC’s Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response to address the pre-event identification of vulnerable older adults during all-hazard emergencies. In 2012, the project will culminate in the release of a resource guide for local, state, territorial, and tribal jurisdictions that presents strategies for identifying and protecting the most vulnerable older adults in a community.
The guide, Identifying Vulnerable Older Adults and Legal Preparedness Options for Increasing Their Protection During Public Health Emergencies: A Cross-Sector Guide for States and Communities, presents a menu of action options to strengthen the protection of this population during all-hazards public health emergencies.
The development of the guide was informed by research using public health information sources and legal databases, a workgroup with members drawn from NACCHO and other key stakeholders, and site visits to local jurisdictions to learn what is being done “on the ground” regarding vulnerable older adult preparedness. To gather information on practice-based examples of local and state initiatives, site visits were conducted in Miami-Dade and Tallahassee, FL; Franklin County, MA; Hawkeye Valley, IA; New Orleans and Baton Rouge, LA; and Honolulu and Hilo, HI.
A Web portal is also in development and will serve as a one-stop source for resources, tools, and information related to all-hazard preparedness for vulnerable older adults.
The multi-sector workgroup of stakeholder subject-matter experts provided comment and feedback on the guide and gave input on the development of the Web portal and related tools. Sectors and organizations represented on the workgroup included:
• Local, state, and federal public health agencies;
• Local, state, and federal aging agencies;
• Elder law organizations;
• Public health law organizations;
• Law enforcement agencies;
• Adult protective services;
• National Association of City and County Health Organizations;
• Association of State and Territorial Health Officials;
• American Red Cross; and
• Transportation planning agencies.
The guide and Web portal will be released in March 2012. To find both of these resources, visit www.cdc.gov/aging/emergency.
For further information contact:
Maggie Moore, MPH
CDC Healthy Aging Program
1 AARP. We Can Do Better: Lessons Learned for Protecting Older Persons in Disasters. Washington, DC: AARP; 2006. http://assets.aarp.org/rgcenter/il/better.pdf.
2 Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics. Older Americans 2010: Key Indicators of Well-Being. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office; 2010. http://www.agingstats.gov/agingstatsdotnet/Main_Site/Data/2010_Documents/Docs/OA_2010.pdf.