In the past several years, public health preparedness planning on both the local, state, and national level has begun to focus in on specific segments of the population, particularly those deemed at-risk or vulnerable. These populations often have a different set of needs in an emergency and planning efforts need to be conducted accordingly. Communities around the country face different sets of hazards and public health professionals analyze these hazards, build their plans for the their population with considerations and specific response protocols for the at-risk populations within their jurisdiction.
This being said, it should be considered that environmental health education and services be conducted in a similar fashion, with the needs of specific segments of the population in mind. These different groups can face an array of health effects from their environment that may vary greatly from that of the general population. There is much that can be learned working cooperatively with preparedness coordinators about how to not only educate at-risk populations of the potential hazards their community faces but also of the threats to their health from the environment. The principles and methods of educating these populations are the same no matter what type of public health message is being conveyed to them.
While there are environmental health education resources for specific at-risk populations that have been developed, there is work yet to be done. Education regarding environmental health and preparedness can and should be streamlined into one, recognizing a true an “all-hazards” approach to public health planning and response. It is a paradigm shift that can have a positive impact on the health and readiness of all segments of the population.
For resources in promoting environmental health in communities, including talking points for certain at-risk populations, visit ATSDR”s Environmental Health and Medicine Education page or the SOPHE Environmental Health & Emergency Preparedness site.