Managing Chronic Conditions in Disasters - Continued

Managing Chronic Conditions in Disasters - Continued

May 2, 2017

May 2, 2017 - In the second installment of our round table series, we convened a virtual webinar to engage experts from around the nation in a discussion on the needs of diabetes patients during disasters. The major focus of these discussions is the needs of patients with chronic disease and, specifically, patients with diabetes during disasters. Joining the discussion was Dr. Pam Allweiss from the CDC’s Division of Diabetes Translation, Keely Smith from the Kidney Community Emergency Response (KCER) Program, and Kristen Finne from ASPR’s Division of Healthcare System Policy  


Dr. Pam Allweiss kicked off the conversation with an overview of the work that has been done by the CDC and other government partners to address chronic disease needs during emergencies. She pointed out that our nation has an epidemic of non-communicable diseases and in order to increase resiliency we must deal with these pre-existing chronic medical conditions. During a disaster and the recovery phase, patients with these chronic conditions such as diabetes have increased morbidity and mortality. The conditions created by a disaster contribute to the inaccessibility of medicines, lack of proper equipment, stability of medicine, and more. She cited the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina as an example, when medical relief pharmacy supplies did not always reflect the needs of evacuees – fifty percent of whom had at least one chronic condition. Dr. Allweiss also highlighted the work the CDC does to stress the importance of understanding insulin storage for patients with diabetes. The CDC has found that providers and consumers often don’t realize that insulin is good for longer than people may realize - up to about 86 degrees for one month. Insulin pens are safe to use for at least two weeks and the insulin in the bottle is good for 28 to 30 days.  Education about this could save the life of a chronic disease patient during a disaster.


Keely Smith provided an overview of KCER’s work to coordinate preparedness and response activities for the unique needs of kidney patients, including ensuring continuous care and access to services for dialysis patients.  She explained that KCER conducts an annual educational needs assessment to determine gaps in services and areas for opportunity. This assessment is sent out to both patients and providers in order to give them an opportunity to provide KCER with information about what emergency resources they are currently receiving within their facilities and where there are gaps so that KCER can help in developing materials to help bridge those gaps.


Kristen Finne spoke about HHS’s emPOWER map and how data and tools like the map are helping with pre-event planning. She stressed the importance of anticipating where power restoration may need to be prioritized, and socializing these locations with electric companies. Making every effort to anticipate what resources and services people would need to allow them to access the care should continue to be a priority for planners. She closed by highlighting the importance of thinking about how to stabilize individuals during emergencies, if possible and appropriate, and to consider if ‘home’ is always the safest place to be more not.


One of the major takeaways from this discussion focused on the importance of working across both sectors and networks as well. We are aware that these issues are incredibly relevant and important, but also highly complex. There are a lot of people doing impressive work across the nation to fix these issues. But they may not always be able to connect and use the best practices and lessons learned from other communities to further improve. Here at Healthcare Ready we are planning to have future round table discussions in DC in order to help foster these conversations about the ways that patients with various diseases can be impacted by disasters, and how the preparedness community can engage and assist with building resilience in patient populations. 

Sarah Baker

Sarah Baker is a Program Associate at Healthcare Ready. In this capacity, she provides a wide range of policy research, writing, and analytical support to the organization's preparedness initiatives.

Prior to joining Healthcare Ready, Sarah served as a consultant to the Department of Homeland Security and a variety of private sector organizations, during which time she supported the design, conduct, and evaluation of scores of preparedness exercises.

Sarah recently received her Masters in Public Policy from Georgetown University's McCourt School of Public Policy and holds a B.A. degree from the University of Notre Dame.