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Examinations of the demands on public health workers after disaster exposure have been limited. Workers provide emergency care while simultaneously risking injury, damage to personal property, and threats to their own and their family's safety. We examined the disaster management experiences of 4323 Florida Department of Health workers 9 months after their response to 4 hurricanes and 1 tropical storm during a 7-week period in August and September of 2004.
Participants completed a self-report questionnaire focused on work performance, mental and physical health, daily functioning, sleep disturbance, physiological arousal, and injury and work demand at the time of the hurricanes, and answered open-ended questions that described their experiences in more detail.
A qualitative analysis conducted from the write-in data yielded 4 domains: (1) work/life balance; (2) training for disaster response role; (3) workplace support; and (4) recovery.
Study findings highlighted a number of concerns that are important to public health workers who provide emergency care after a disaster and, in particular, multiple disasters such as during the 2004 hurricane season. The findings also yielded important recommendations for emergency public health preparedness. (Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2013;0:1–7)
We examined the relationship of probable posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), probable depression, and increased alcohol and/or tobacco use to disaster exposure and work demand in Florida Department of Health workers after the 2004 hurricanes.
Participants (N = 2249) completed electronic questionnaires assessing PTSD, depression, alcohol and tobacco use, hurricane exposure, and work demand.
Total mental and behavioral health burden (probable PTSD, probable depression, increased alcohol and/or tobacco use) was 11%. More than 4% had probable PTSD, and 3.8% had probable depression. Among those with probable PTSD, 29.2% had increased alcohol use, and 50% had increased tobacco use. Among those with probable depression, 34% indicated increased alcohol use and 55.6% increased tobacco use. Workers with greater exposure were more likely to have probable PTSD and probable depression (ORs = 3.3 and 3.06, respectively). After adjusting for demographics and work demand, those with high exposure were more likely to have probable PTSD and probable depression (ORs = 3.21 and 3.13). Those with high exposure had increased alcohol and tobacco use (ORs = 3.01 and 3.40), and those with high work demand indicated increased alcohol and tobacco use (ORs = 1.98 and 2.10). High exposure and work demand predicted increased alcohol and tobacco use, after adjusting for demographics, work demand, and exposure.
Work-related disaster mental and behavioral health burden indicate the need for additional mental health interventions in the public health disaster workforce.(Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2013;7:89-95)
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