Statistical and methodological challenges for disaster preparedness and medical needs assessment in Rio Grande Valley of Texas

Sartaj Alam, The University of Texas School of Public Health


In recent years, disaster preparedness through assessment of medical and special needs persons (MSNP) has taken a center place in public eye in effect of frequent natural disasters such as hurricanes, storm surge or tsunami due to climate change and increased human activity on our planet. Statistical methods complex survey design and analysis have equally gained significance as a consequence. However, there exist many challenges still, to infer such assessments over the target population for policy level advocacy and implementation. Objective. This study discusses the use of some of the statistical methods for disaster preparedness and medical needs assessment to facilitate local and state governments for its policy level decision making and logistic support to avoid any loss of life and property in future calamities. Methods. In order to obtain precise and unbiased estimates for Medical Special Needs Persons (MSNP) and disaster preparedness for evacuation in Rio Grande Valley (RGV) of Texas, a stratified and cluster-randomized multi-stage sampling design was implemented. US School of Public Health, Brownsville surveyed 3088 households in three counties namely Cameron, Hidalgo, and Willacy. Multiple statistical methods were implemented and estimates were obtained taking into count probability of selection and clustering effects. Statistical methods for data analysis discussed were Multivariate Linear Regression (MLR), Survey Linear Regression (Svy-Reg), Generalized Estimation Equation (GEE) and Multilevel Mixed Models (MLM) all with and without sampling weights. Results. Estimated population for RGV was 1,146,796. There were 51.5% female, 90% Hispanic, 73% married, 56% unemployed and 37% with their personal transport. 40% people attained education up to elementary school, another 42% reaching high school and only 18% went to college. Median household income is less than $15,000/year. MSNP estimated to be 44,196 (3.98%) [95% CI: 39,029; 51,123]. All statistical models are in concordance with MSNP estimates ranging from 44,000 to 48,000. MSNP estimates for statistical methods are: MLR (47,707; 95% CI: 42,462; 52,999), MLR with weights (45,882; 95% CI: 39,792; 51,972), Bootstrap Regression (47,730; 95% CI: 41,629; 53,785), GEE (47,649; 95% CI: 41,629; 53,670), GEE with weights (45,076; 95% CI: 39,029; 51,123), Svy-Reg (44,196; 95% CI: 40,004; 48,390) and MLM (46,513; 95% CI: 39,869; 53,157). Conclusion. RGV is a flood zone, most susceptible to hurricanes and other natural disasters. People in the region are mostly Hispanic, under-educated with least income levels in the U.S. In case of any disaster people in large are incapacitated with only 37% have their personal transport to take care of MSNP. Local and state government’s intervention in terms of planning, preparation and support for evacuation is necessary in any such disaster to avoid loss of precious human life. Key words: Complex Surveys, statistical methods, multilevel models, cluster randomized, sampling weights, raking, survey regression, generalized estimation equations (GEE), random effects, Intracluster correlation coefficient (ICC).

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Recommended Citation

Alam, Sartaj, "Statistical and methodological challenges for disaster preparedness and medical needs assessment in Rio Grande Valley of Texas" (2009). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI1470210.