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ASPPH Member Response to Hurricane Irma

Hurricane Irma’s destruction to Florida and other states in the Southeast, as well as to Puerto Rico, has impacted most of our members in that area. Our thoughts are with those in the affected areas. To all in our member schools affected by Hurricane Irma or Hurricane Harvey, please let us know if there is anything we can do to help you during this challenging time.

Many of our members are already involved in the Hurricane Irma response. Below is a list of activities. Please also view ASPPH Member Response to Hurricane Harvey. We will provide updates as they become available.

George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health

GW Study Assessing Urban Climate Change Vulnerabilities Highlights Ways Cities Can Plan to Prioritize Public Health

The record flooding still devastating southeastern Texas and the similar effects of Hurricane Irma offer a stark reminder in the importance of advance planning for the impacts of climate change.

“The reality of climate change is ever present and growing,” says Dr. Sabrina McCormick, an associate professor of environmental and occupational health at Milken Institute School of Public Health (Milken Institute SPH) at the George Washington University (GW). McCormick has led some of the first efforts to systematically assess how prepared cities are for extreme weather events. Her work has highlighted dramatic differences by investigating how six U.S. cities located across the country are preparing for climate change.

Dr. McCormick conducted 65 interviews with people working in six cities: Boston, Los Angeles, Portland, Raleigh, Tampa and Tucson. Her previous research with the same group showed that city planners had yet to fully assess their vulnerability to climate change, leaving serious risks unaddressed.

Her most recent analysis, conducted with Mr. Mark Shimamoto, a recent alumnus of Milken Institute SPH’s Environmental Science Health and Policy program, recommends steps that cities should take to protect the public health.

“The benefits of involving health experts in urban planning efforts can have truly profound consequences,” Dr. McCormick says. “For example, demonstrating the effects that an extreme weather event can have on the local grid and other infrastructure can demonstrate what needs to be done to prevent unnecessary deaths as climate change-related extremes continue.”

Read more.

New York University College of Global Public Health

GPH PiR2 Forum: Public Health Research in the Aftermath of Disaster

Dr. David Abramson and his team at the NYU College of Global Public Health’s Population Impact Recovery and Resiliency Program are hosting a two-hour forum on Monday, September 18th to examine public health research in the aftermath of disasters and how it is conducted.

Discussants include:

The forum will highlight the work of PiR2 and what has been learned in its research over multiple disasters, plus references to current state of thinking about Public Health Disaster Science.

Among the topics to be discussed include: the merits and value of public health disaster research; making a “Go/No GO” decision; capturing ephemeral data; the importance of assuring the safety of disaster researchers and sensitivity towards disaster survivors; finding partners, stakeholders, and funders; and the need for speed – in research design, operations, data collection, analysis and reporting.

University of Georgia College of Public Health

Two University of Georgia College of Public Health faculty members deployed to Georgia’s State Operations Center (SOC) in Atlanta on Fri. Sept. 8 at the request of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency. Both Dr. Curt Harris, associate director of the Institute for Disaster Management, and Tawny Waltz, assistant research scientist in the Institute, spent 12 hours in the SOC pre-storm, assisting Emergency Support Function 8 (Public Health and Medical Services) personnel in answering phone calls and finding placement for/coordinating transport of Georgia hospital patients, long term care facility residents, and individuals with functional, access and medical needs evacuating in anticipation of Hurricane Irma. Both Harris and Waltz were able to utilize their existing relationships with Georgia’s healthcare community to assist state personnel in these critical and potentially lifesaving endeavors.

Closer to home, College of Public Health faculty and disaster management students involved with UGA’s Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) and Campus Emergency Response Team (CERT) Program assisted the Athens/Clarke County Emergency Operations Center in staffing its citizen call center as Tropical Storm Irma passed through Athens, Ga. Mon. Sept. 11 and Tues. Sept. 12. The volunteers, working in 12 hours shifts, helped to decrease the call volume to the 911 Center by answering non-emergency questions, providing sheltering information for local and Florida evacuees, connecting callers to local, state and federal emergency resources, and assisting the ACC EOC in collecting information about school closures, downed trees and power lines, and other weather-related issues needed for local response efforts. The MRC, co-directed by the College of Public Health and UGA Office of Emergency Preparedness (OEP), and CERT Program, offered through the OEP, are sister volunteer organizations at UGA that provide pre-credentialed, pre-trained volunteers to assist with disaster responses.

University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health

When natural disasters strike, infants are among those most vulnerable to illness and death. An unclean environment, crowding and a lack of adequate facilities and resources can lead to increased risk of infections and inappropriate feedings practices during emergencies.

Recent hurricanes across the southern United States and Caribbean have disrupted the lives of thousands of new and expectant families.

That is why a UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health faculty member is urging the public to support families to help keep their infants and young children safely fed.

Dr. Aunchalee Palmquist, assistant professor of maternal and child health at the Gillings School and member of the School’s Carolina Global Breastfeeding Institute, is working with a number of organizations, including to provide information and resources for families of infants and young children.

“Emergencies are an incredibly risky time for infants,” Dr. Palmquist said. “Babies who are breastfed have the best chance of bouncing back from the nutritional stress and infection that disasters bring. In an emergency, breastfeeding provides food security and sound nutrition.”

However, the stress of emergencies, lack of privacy and lack of skilled support often lead many parents to stop breastfeeding.

“We often hear from mothers that they are worried about not having enough milk or that stress has soured their milk,” said Dr. Palmquist. “However, continued support and reassurance can go a long way to supporting those who wish to continue breastfeeding in an emergency.”

Dr. Palmquist said that while stress may slow the flow of milk temporarily, it is still there, and human milk contains all of the water, nutrition and immunities needed to help support babies’ health. She noted that if breastfeeding is interrupted during an emergency, relactation is possible with skilled support, and parents should be educated about this option.

Dr. Palmquist also said that when formula feeding is needed in emergencies, it is important to have safeguards in place to protect babies from harm.

“Mass donations and uncontrolled distribution of infant formula, although well-intended, actually puts babies at risk,” she said.

One way to mitigate harm is to have coordinated response that provides families with skilled infant feeding support.

“A relief worker can be trained to do a feeding assessment and then to distribute single-serve, read-to-feed, sterile liquid formulas as they are needed,” said Dr. Palmquist. “We hope to increase awareness about the risks of formula feeding in emergencies. Emergency preparedness must integrate protocols that enable relief workers and sheltering staff to protect breastfeeding and ensure safe formula feeding.”

Families seeking support to feed their infants can access several free hotlines with questions or concerns:

Texas Women, Infant and Children (WIC) program – For around-the-clock feeding support, call 855-550-6667. Visit org or call 800-942-3678 to have WIC foods replaced.

Florida residents can contact their local county WIC coordinator.

Postpartum Support International (PSI) Warmline at 1-800-944-4773(4PPD)

There are also resources for those working in shelters:

AAP Infant Feeding in Disasters and Emergencies

USBC Breastfeeding in Emergencies
Those supporting families with infants and young children who want to learn how to ensure the children are safely fed may contact Dr. Palmquist at

Washington University in St. Louis – Brown School Public Health Programs

WashU: 2-1-1 Counts Provides Data on Calls for Hurricane Help

A new on-line tool developed by the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis tracks requests for help from callers in areas hard hit by Hurricane Irma. displays calling data from 2-1-1 help lines in 23 states, including Florida, Alabama, and the Carolinas.

Viewers can see calls for help on basic needs such as housing, food, and disaster relief. The data can be viewed by county, ZIP code, and state and federal legislative districts. Calls can be tracked over time and used by relief agencies to determine when and where needs are greatest.

The free tool was developed by the Health Communication Research Laboratory at the Brown School.  For more information, visit