Recent large-scale disasters have exposed the interconnected nature of modern societies, exacerbating the risk of cascading impacts. Examining elements of community health status, such as social determinants of health, their perceived health status, and how they relate to disaster resilience, can illuminate alternative actions for cost-effective disaster prevention and management. Moreover, agricultural communities are essential to food security and provide a working example of the importance of mitigation in escalation of crises. To that aim, this research examines perceptions of the relationship between disaster resilience and determinants of health, including health status. Participants also reported their views on perceived vulnerable groups in their community and proposed design characteristics of more effective community disaster plans.
Here investigated are these elements in a small agricultural community of Western Australia previously exposed to bushfires. A questionnaire was used based on health elements from the Social Determinants of Health described by the World Health Organization (WHO) and compared this with quantitative data describing the community health status. A mixed methods approach combining qualitative (semi-structured interview) and quantitative (closed questions using a Likert scale) tools was undertaken with a small group of community members.
It was found that community connection and social capital were perceived to provide knowledge and support that enhanced individual disaster risk awareness and preparedness and improved an individual’s disaster resilience. Stress and social exclusion within a community were perceived to decrease an individual’s resilience to disaster. Disaster resilience was reported to be a function of good physical and mental health. To achieve effective disaster planning, community partnership in the development, education, and testing of plans and robust communication were described as essential traits in community emergency plans.