The “Prepare” Objective

3 Keys Framework - Prepare

The primary objective for “Prepare” is to:
Understand the unique ways in which chronic environmental contamination (CEC) has impacted and continues to impact this particular community.

Chronic Environmental Contamination (CEC) flow chart

Figure adapted from Couch & Coles (2011)

What’s Unique About CEC?

Compared to a natural disaster, CEC typically follows a unique time course and sequence of events.

One-time natural disasters tend to follow a fairly predictable sequence. There is often some warning of a threat prior to the disaster itself and its impact. Following the impact, there is a period of recovery and rehabilitation. Natural disasters can cause chronic stress reactions, especially when they happen in succession.

In contrast, a CEC experience can last decades. Community members can feel caught in a loop of repeated warning, threat, and impact cycles as more people learn about local contamination, new contaminants of concern become evident, or possible long-term health effects emerge. As a result, some community members may experience chronic stress.

The “Prepare” objective has three secondary objectives:
  1. Learn about the community and its needs before addressing stress.
  2. Build lasting relationships and interventions.
  3. Be aware of chronic stress, conflict, and retraumatization.
Understanding Chronic Environmental Contamination (CEC) in a Community

The “Prepare” objective focuses on planning public health activities to account for the unique aspects of CEC. CEC is unique in relation to other disaster events. Additionally, every contamination event will be unique, in part because each community is different.

Plan for the unique time course of CEC, gather information about and assess community resources, and learn about the nature of CEC-related stress and how to intervene in this context. For example, many materials designed to help strengthen community resilience were originally designed for use after natural disasters and other acutely traumatic events. Thus, they may need to be modified for use in the context of CEC. Similarly, the public health response should incorporate health equity objectives, particularly when the community has previously documented health disparities.

Page last reviewed: March 23, 2021