New National Disaster Preparedness Survey Reveals How COVID-19 Is Compounding Systemic Barriers to Care for Medically Fragile Populations

WASHINGTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Socio-economic disparities and regional differences in preparedness education can impact a community’s disaster outcomes, as shown in the seventh annual national survey released today by Healthcare. Ready. Each year, the nonprofit organization, which focuses on health preparedness and disaster response, surveys the nation to provide information on how different communities view and prepare for disasters that could disrupt the access to healthcare, or the critical infrastructure systems that power our country’s healthcare systems.

Healthcare Ready’s seventh “National Household Preparedness Survey” focuses on understanding how the social determinants of health can contribute to the disproportionate impacts of disasters for communities of color, low-income people, medically fragile communities and other underserved groups who are more likely to be impacted by systemic inequities in health care and emergency preparedness, response and recovery resources. The poll was administered via an online survey of 2,596 adults (aged 18+) residing in the United States, with fieldwork conducted by YouGov between May 2-4, 2022.

“In the seven years that Healthcare Ready has conducted the National Disaster Preparedness Survey, we continue to see how the effects of systematic injustice play out in the impact of disasters and the availability of resilience resources,” said said Tom Cotter, Executive Director of Healthcare Ready “Our latest survey shows the cumulative effect of COVID-19 on these inequalities. Healthcare Ready calls on local and national leaders to use this data to allocate funds where they are needed most. As the severe impacts of these emergencies continue to increase due to climate change, there is no time for us to start paying attention. The time to act was decades ago, but the second best time is now. The longer families go without additional tools to prepare for the next crisis, the more preventable suffering is caused.”

Consistent with results from previous years, this year’s poll showed that 56% of Americans think a major disaster is likely to impact them or their family within the next five years, but less than half (40 %) have a contingency plan in place. This year’s poll also found that nearly half (49%) of Americans who need regular medication or medical equipment could go a week or less without them before facing a personal medical crisis.1 Assessed by race, Hispanic and Black respondents were the most likely to say they couldn’t go more than a week without access to their medications or devices (58% and 54%, respectively), compared to White respondents ( 47%).

Recent trends in pharmacy closures, among other declines in investment for community resources that support historically underresourced communities, paint a disturbing picture of how historically underserved communities will be able to withstand the next major disaster that disrupts healthcare without additional investments in preparedness education.

When asked to identify the primary way the COVID-19 pandemic is still impacting their households, the top pick among those still experiencing negative effects was emotional, mental or physical health (37%) , followed by concerns about the ability to pay for either food/other basic expenses or medical expenses (26%).2 Meanwhile, more than a quarter of Americans (27%) said they would turn to federal, state or local governments in the next two years for help. When asked where they would be most likely to seek help in the next two years (from a list provided), Black (26%) and Hispanic (22%) Americans were most likely than others identify the federal government as the source they would be most likely to turn to for help over the next two years. Comparatively, white respondents were more likely than others to say they would most likely turn to family or friends for support in the next two years (29%). These findings suggest a racial divide in feelings of access to support systems for help.

What disasters like the pandemic and other recent events have shown us is that longstanding structural inequalities in health care lead to worse outcomes for historically underserved communities. Rebuilding hard-hit communities with greater resilience will require longer-term investments in preparedness and health care, better coordination between the public and private sectors, and response and recovery efforts grounded in equity and operationalized by trusted networks and stakeholders.

Additional resources to support community preparedness are provided below.

  • Favor resources like Rx Open to help find nearby pharmacies, healthcare facilities, dialysis centers and other open healthcare resources during a crisis. Visit: https://www.healthcareready.org/rxopen or https://www.rxopen.org
  • Prepare a first aid kit which includes protective gear (such as masks, gloves), food, water, flashlights, batteries, clothing, medical supplies, and most importantly, all necessary medications in a bag resealable leak proof for long term storage.
  • Have an escape plan which covers meeting points, alternative routes, reunification plans, and emergency contacts especially for the medically fragile, who may need additional planning and assistance. For more information on hurricane season, check out our blog.
  • Talk to your health care provider to plan for chronic conditions you may have and to organize specific preparedness actions you should take to properly manage health conditions during a disaster.
  • Keep a written list of prescriptions Using Rx on the Run to print a personalized wallet-sized card that documents your prescriptions and other important medical information. Visit: Healthcare Loan | Rx On The Run to fill yours!

For more details on the survey results, please visit our Community Resilience page for a full summary and results from the 2022 National Household Readiness Survey.

About Healthcare Ready

Healthcare Ready is a nonprofit organization established in 2007 to help strengthen America’s healthcare system and help communities plan for, respond to, and recover from disasters and pandemics. He serves as a liaison between industry and local, state and federal governments to help build resilient communities and protect patients before, during and after public health emergencies. For more information, visit www.healthcareready.org or find us on Twitter @HC_Ready

About the YouGov survey

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. The total sample size was 2,596 adults.

Fieldwork was undertaken between May 2-4, 2022. The survey was conducted online.

Figures have been weighted and are representative of all US adults (ages 18+).

New questions about COVID-19 have been included in the 2022 National Preparedness Survey.

______________________________

1 Excluding responses that selected Not Applicable, N=2,102

2 Excluding responses that selected None of the above responses, N=1,518.