The health of people with chronic medical conditions is particularly vulnerable to the disruptions caused by public health disasters, especially when there is massive damage to the medical infrastructure. Government agencies and national organizations recommend that people with chronic illness prepare for disasters by stockpiling extra supplies of medications.
A wide range of chronic illnesses has long been documented among veterans of the US armed forces. Veterans with chronic illness could be at great risk of complications due to disaster-related medication disruptions; however, the prevalence of personal medication preparedness among chronically ill veterans is not currently known.
Data was used from the 2009 California Health Interview Survey on 28,167 respondents who reported taking daily medications. After adjusting for differences in age, health status, and other characteristics, calculations were made of the percentage of respondents who had a two-week supply of emergency medications and, among respondents without a supply, the percentage who said they could obtain one. Veteran men, veteran women, nonveteran men, and nonveteran women were compared.
Medication supplies among veteran men (81.9%) were higher than among nonveteran women (74.8%; P < .0001) and veteran women (81.1%; P = 0.014). Among respondents without medication supplies, 67.2% of nonveteran men said that they could obtain a two-week supply, compared with 60.1% of nonveteran women (P = .012).
Among adults in California with chronic illness, veteran men are more likely to have personal emergency medication supplies than are veteran and nonveteran women. Veteran men may be more likely to be prepared because of their training to work in combat zones and other emergency situations, which perhaps engenders in them a culture of preparedness or self-reliance. It is also possible that people who choose to enlist in the military are different from the general population in ways that make them more likely to be better prepared for emergencies.
Veterans in California have a relatively high level of emergency medication preparedness. Given the health complications that can result from disaster-related medication disruptions, this is a promising finding. Disasters are a national concern, however, and the personal preparedness of veterans in all parts of the nation should be assessed; these findings could serve as a useful reference point for such work in the future.