What is the Challenge? All regions of the United States experience disasters that result in a number of negative public health and social consequences. Some populations have higher levels of social vulnerability, and therefore are more likely to experience negative impacts including emotional distress, loss of property, illness, and death. Researchers have created various social vulnerability datasets and tools to identify vulnerable populations based on U.S. Census data. However, there currently isn’t an accounting of the toll of disaster—the deaths, injuries, and costs—for vulnerable populations in large-scale disasters. This project will allow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to better account for, visually display, and publicly communicate the impacts that vulnerable populations experienced in previous large-scale events through the development of a series of detailed fact sheets and the creation of a vulnerability database.

Project Purpose: This purpose of this project is to compile information for specific subpopulations, drawing on datasets available from the CDC and other publicly accessible data sources and publications to count the toll of disaster in recent large-scale events across the United States. The project will focus on disaster impacts for the most vulnerable populations—including children, the elderly, racial and ethnic minorities, persons with disabilities, and low-income persons and households. The products developed will provide an evidence-informed description of vulnerability in large-scale disasters. This will give the CDC, state and local health departments, and other partners information that can be cited in publications and decision briefs, as well as in public and professional presentations.

Outcomes: There are administrative and technical tasks associated with this project that will result in specific deliverables for the CDC. The technical tasks include the following sub-projects:

  • Fact sheets: The Natural Hazards Center team is creating and updating a series of internal fact sheets for use by the CDC Emergency Operations Center Vulnerable Population Desk and for dissemination to stakeholders and partners. The subpopulation fact sheets will focus on a variety of vulnerable subpopulations as well as various types of hazards events.
  • Counting the Costs: This task will create a database of disaster losses by specific subpopulations based on available datasets and publications to count the total number of deaths, injuries, and illnesses in recent large-scale emergencies across the United Sates.
  • Mapping the Counts: Once the counts are established, a geospatial expert will map the deaths, injuries, and costs of disaster by vulnerable subpopulation.
  • Presentation: At the close of this project, the results will be compiled in a presentation format. Most immediately, the information will be presented in the poster session and in a regular concurrent session at the 2018 Natural Hazards Workshop.

Principal Investigator: Lori Peek, Natural Hazards Center and Department of Sociology, University of Colorado Boulder (Lori.Peek@colorado.edu)

Program Officer: Amy Wolkin, Vulnerable Populations Officer, Office of Applied Research, Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (awolkin@cdc.gov)