Protecting and supporting high risk populations in pandemic: Drawing from experiences with influenza A (H1N1) (pp. 371-381)
Authors: Michael Falconi, Christine Fahim, and Tracey O’Sullivan
Abstract: The outbreak of Influenza A (H1N1) in 2009 quickly became pandemic, and despite low mortality, it tested community planning, particularly contingency arrangements for people with functional limitations. Objective In this study, we explored what support mechanisms were needed and available for high risk populations during the pandemic and potential strategies to improve preparedness, based on the experience of key informants working in emergency and social services. Objective study group/Methods Semi-structured interviews with (N=43) professionals and volunteers working in emergency, health and social services were audio recorded, transcribed and analysed using Nvivo8 software. Results Emergent themes are presented in a model which emphasises the need for: a) Connectedness, including informal and formal relationships and partnerships; b) Communication, focused on education, public awareness, and dissemination of guidelines; and c) Coordination, emphasising supply and allocation of resources, policy development, and prioritization of vaccines. Conclusions The findings underscore the need for contingency planning to accommodate people with functional limitations, development of relationships among essential services and community organizations, and updating of the status of essential service workers with respect to priority grouping for vaccination.