Background: On June 8 and 9, 2008, more than 4 inches of rain fell in the Iowa-Cedars River Basin causing widespread flooding along the Cedar River in Benton, Linn, Johnson, and Cedar Counties. As a result of the flooding, there were 18 deaths, 106 injuries, and over 38 000 people displaced from their homes; this made it necessary for the Iowa Department of Health to conduct a rapid needs assessment to quantify the scope and effect of the floods on human health.
Methods: In response, the Iowa Department of Public Health mobilized interview teams to conduct rapid needs assessments using Geographic Information Systems (GIS)-based cluster sampling techniques. The information gathered was subsequently employed to estimate the public health impact and significant human needs that resulted from the flooding.
Results: While these assessments did not reveal significant levels of acute injuries resulting from the flood, they did show that many households had been temporarily displaced and that future health risks may emerge as the result of inadequate access to prescription medications or the presence of environmental health hazards.
Conclusions: This exercise highlights the need for improved risk communication measures and ongoing surveillance and relief measures. It also demonstrates the utility of rapid needs assessment survey tools and suggests that increasing use of such surveys can have significant public health benefits.
(Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2011;5:287–292)