Published online by Cambridge University Press: 21 July 2015
Community Assessment for Public Health Emergency Response (CASPER) is an epidemiologic technique designed to provide quick, inexpensive, accurate, and reliable household-based public health information about a community’s emergency response needs. The Health Studies Branch at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides in-field assistance and technical support to state, local, tribal, and territorial (SLTT) health departments in conducting CASPERs during a disaster response and in non-emergency settings. Data from CASPERs conducted from 2003 through 2012 were reviewed to describe uses of CASPER, ascertain strengths of the CASPER methodology, and highlight significant findings.
Through an assessment of the CDC’s CASPER metadatabase, all CASPERs that involved CDC support performed in US states and territories from 2003 through 2012 were reviewed and compared descriptively for differences in geographic distribution, sampling methodology, mapping tool, assessment settings, and result and action taken by decision makers.
For the study period, 53 CASPERs were conducted in 13 states and one US territory. Among the 53 CASPERS, 38 (71.6%) used the traditional 2-stage cluster sampling methodology, 10 (18.8%) used a 3-stage cluster sampling, and two (3.7%) used a simple random sampling methodology. Among the CASPERs, 37 (69.9%) were conducted in response to specific natural or human-induced disasters, including 14 (37.8%) for hurricanes. The remaining 16 (30.1%) CASPERS were conducted in non-disaster settings to assess household preparedness levels or potential effects of a proposed plan or program. The most common recommendations resulting from a disaster-related CASPER were to educate the community on available resources (27; 72.9%) and provide services (18; 48.6%) such as debris removals and refills of medications. In preparedness CASPERs, the most common recommendations were to educate the community in disaster preparedness (5; 31.2%) and to revise or improve preparedness plans (5; 31.2%). Twenty-five (47.1%) CASPERs documented on the report or publications the public health action has taken based on the result or recommendations. Findings from 27 (50.9%) of the CASPERs conducted with CDC assistance were published in peer-reviewed journals or elsewhere.
The number of CASPERs conducted with CDC assistance has increased and diversified over the past decade. The CASPERs’ results and recommendations supported the public health decisions that benefitted the community. Overall, the findings suggest that the CASPER is a useful tool for collecting household-level disaster preparedness and response data and generating information to support public health action.
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