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Part 1: Emergency Preparedness from an Intersectional Approach

Thursday, October 25th, 2018

Construction Workers with hard hats looking at the cameraWritten by: Jose Juan Lara, Jr., Project Manager, Casa de Esperanza: National Latin@ Network

Disasters, whether manmade or natural, affect entire communities regardless of an individual’s  age, immigration status, ability, faith practices, racial and/or ethnic identity, or gender identity. Current research on emergency preparedness systems consistently demonstrate minority communities are more vulnerable than others across the range of events before and after a disaster. The impact and how systems of help respond needs to be nuanced based on the circumstances and specific needs at the individual and community level.

A Global Community

The growing diversity of the U.S. population makes it especially important to provide culturally competent services to racial and ethnic groups. According to the report, Projections of the Size and Composition of the U.S. Population: 2014 to 2060[1]:

  • Around the time the 2020 Census is conducted, more than half of the nation’s children are expected to be part of a minority race or ethnic group. This proportion is expected to continue to grow so that by 2060, just 36 percent of all children (people under age 18) will be single-race non-Hispanic white, compared with 52 percent today.
  • The U.S. population is expected to follow a similar trend, becoming majority-minority in 2044. The minority population is projected to rise to 56 percent of the total in 2060, compared with 38 percent in 2014.

In the case of Latin@s there were 56.5 million in the United States in 2015, accounting for 17.6% of the total U.S. population (Facts About Latinos in America, 2017).[2] In addition, the Pew Research Center reports:[3]

  • Latin@s are the nation’s second-fastest growing racial or ethnic group, with a 2.0% growth rate between 2015 and 2016 compared with a 3.0% rate for Asians.
  • Latin@s of Mexican origin account for 3% (36 million)of the nation’s Hispanic population in 2015, by far the largest share of any origin group, but down from a recent peak of 65.7 in 2008.
  • The population of Latin@s of Puerto Rican origin, the second-largest origin group, stands at 5.4 million in 2015 in the 50 states and the District of Columbia (an additional 4 million people live in Puerto Rico).
  • Five other Latin@ origin groups have populations of more than 1 million (each) – Salvadorans, Cubans, Dominicans, Guatemalans and Colombians – and each has also seen its population increase over the past decade.

It’s also important to acknowledge the Latin@ community is diverse and represents a multitude of peoples living at the intersections of gender identity, age, immigration status, diverse cognitive and physical ability, indigenous, limited English proficiency and Deaf and/or hard of hearing.

Race, Class, Ethnicity and Disaster Vulnerability

The implementation of emergency response systems is not a new practice and the research indicates national practices still neglect to fully integrate factors related to race, culture and language. Andrulis, Siddiqui, & Gantner (2007) conducted a review of research, web sites, and reports published by government agencies, academic institutions, and private-sector organizations, including community-based programs. Their goal was to identify studies and interventions that addressed public health emergency preparedness for racially/ethnically diverse communities and existing resources addressing marginalized communities’ distinct needs. Their study found a growing number of reports and peer reviewed publications on emergency preparedness but there still was lacking information specifically on racial/ethnic minorities. Of the studies that examined racial/ethnic differences in the context of emergencies, the majority were published before the early 1990s; since then, and until Hurricane Katrina, few research studies addressed this priority.[4]

In an earlier literature review from a wide range of studies illustrated that racial and ethnic communities in the US are more vulnerable to natural disasters, due to factors such as language, housing patterns, building construction, community isolation and cultural insensitivities (Fothergill, Alice & Maestas, Enrique & Derouen, Joanne, 1999).[5] Similarly, in a 2013 study on disparity in disaster preparedness examined the association between race/ethnicity (including language subgroups among Hispanics) and found Black, English-speaking Hispanic and Spanish-speaking Hispanic respondents were less likely than non-Hispanic white respondents to live in a household in which all members requiring medication had a 3-d supply (Bethel, Burke,  & Britt). Bethel, et al also cite that although “vulnerability of racial and ethnic minorities have focused on class issues such as socioeconomic differences and lack of resources; however, there are issues specific to race and ethnicity that contribute to the increased vulnerability such as cultural and language barriers, distrust of warning messengers (e.g., government authority), lower perceived risk from emergencies, preference for particular information sources (e.g., friends and family), and lack of preparation.”[6]

Current research explores on setting an intersectional approach and continues to affirm the need to include culturally responsive approaches. Cox (2017) states there are links between racism and vulnerability in disaster preparedness and recovery and individuals recognize threats of disaster in a manner reflective of the social and economic resources available.  Cox research also cites the “uneven geographic development and allocation of resources and services which have produced neighborhood characteristics with existing and complex relations of racial/ethnic and income disparities (Elliot & Pais, 2006; Fothergill et al., 1999).”[7]

Stay tuned next week for Part 2 of Emergency Preparedness from an Intersectional Approach, where we discuss Barriers to Full Inclusion of Latin@ Communities in Emergency Planning, Elements of Cultural Competency within Disaster Preparedness, and more!

[1] US Census Bureau. (2015, March 03). New Census Bureau Report Analyzes U.S. Population Projections. Retrieved September 20, 2018, from https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2015/cb15-tps16.html

[2] Flores, A. (2018, June 13). Facts on Latinos in America. Retrieved September 20, 2018, from http://www.pewhispanic.org/2017/09/18/facts-on-u-s-latinos/

[3] Flores, A. (2017, September 18). How the U.S. Hispanic population is changing. Retrieved September 20, 2018, from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/09/18/how-the-u-s-hispanic-population-is-changing/

[4] Andrulis, D. P., Siddiqui, N. J., & Gantner, J. L. (2016, April 05). Preparing racially and ethnically diverse communities for public health emergencies. Retrieved September 19, 2018, from https://www.healthaffairs.org/doi/pdf/10.1377/hlthaff.26.5.1269

[5] Fothergill, Alice & Maestas, Enrique & Derouen, Joanne. (1999). Race, Ethnicity and Disasters in the United States: A Review of the Literature. Disasters. 23. 156-73. Retrieved September 20, 2018 from https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Enrique_Maestas/publication/12920224_Race_Ethnicity_and_Disasters_in_the_United_States_A_Review_of_the_Literature/links/59f0083e0f7e9baeb26ad417/Race-Ethnicity-and-Disasters-in-the-United-States-A-Review-of-the-Literature.pdf?origin=publication_detail

[6] Bethel, J. W., Burke, S. C., & Britt, A. F. (2013, November 8). Disparity in disaster preparedness between racial/ethnic groups. Retrieved September 19, 2018, from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.4161/dish.27085

[7] Cox, K. M., “Race and Income Disparities in Disaster Preparedness in Old Age” (2017). Master’s Theses and Capstones. Retrieved September 19, 2018, from  https://scholars.unh.edu/thesis/1163

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