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Community ready! Assessing and meeting the needs of parents in Arlington County, VA

Marina S. Moses, DrPH, MS, Donna S. Caruso, RN, MSN, Timothy G. Otten, MPH, Sam Simmens, PhD, Tee L. Guidotti, MD, MPH


In March 2006, three elementary schools, composed of at least 50 percent Latino populations, were selected in Arlington, VA, to participate in a multitiered survey to evaluate parents’ emergency preparedness needs. This article describes how to identify vulnerable populations and tailor specific information and services to their public health needs. An oral survey was administered to parents in their preferred language, English or Spanish, regarding their questions, concerns, preferences, and needs pertaining to public health emergency preparedness. Major themes that emerged included the need for language and culturally sensitive preparedness information; the merit of using established community venues for parents to gather; and the importance of using group specific preferred modes of information dissemination. Significant differences were observed between English speakers and Spanish speakers’ perceived vulnerability, level of preparedness, and preferences for acquiring information. An important similarity that presented itself was that all parents surveyed regard the public school system as safe, trustworthy, and best suited for providing public health preparedness information to the community. Based on this study, an innovative model is being developed called Community Ready! which will be an all-hazards approach to public health preparedness outreach that will be reproducible in other municipalities and school districts.


community, preparedness, Latino, school, emergency, public health

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