Skip Navigation Links
Skip Navigation Links
January 2021Expand January 2021
November 2020Expand November 2020
July/August 2020Expand July/August 2020
May/June 2020Expand May/June 2020
March/April 2020Expand March/April 2020
January/February 2020Expand January/February 2020
September/October 2019Expand September/October 2019
July/August 2019Expand July/August 2019
May/June 2019Expand May/June 2019
March/April 2019Expand March/April 2019
January/February 2019Expand January/February 2019
November/December 2018Expand November/December 2018
September/October 2018Expand September/October 2018
July/August 2018Expand July/August 2018
May/June 2018Expand May/June 2018
March/April 2018Expand March/April 2018
January/February 2018Expand January/February 2018
November/December 2017Expand November/December 2017
September/October 2017Expand September/October 2017
July/August 2017Expand July/August 2017
May/June 2017Expand May/June 2017
March/April 2017Expand March/April 2017
January/February 2017Expand January/February 2017
November/December 2016Expand November/December 2016
September/October 2016Expand September/October 2016
July/August 2016Expand July/August 2016
May/June 2016Expand May/June 2016
March/April 2016Expand March/April 2016
January/February 2016Expand January/February 2016
November/December 2015Expand November/December 2015
September/October 2015Expand September/October 2015
July/August 2015Expand July/August 2015
May/June 2015Expand May/June 2015
March/April 2015Expand March/April 2015
January/February 2015Expand January/February 2015
ArchiveExpand Archive
Special Edition - EPRExpand Special Edition - EPR
Special Edition: Title V Technical Assistance MeetingExpand Special Edition: Title V Technical Assistance Meeting
Title V Technical Assistance Meeting

 Building Emergency Preparedness and Response Capacity in Reproductive Health

By Marianne E. Zotti, DrPH, MS, FAANMZotti.jpg
Consultant, Emergency Preparedness and Response Activity, MANILA Consulting Group, Inc.

Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was a major disaster that forced the evacuation of New Orleans and affected large areas of other states, especially Mississippi, whose coastal areas received extensive damage as a result of being directly in the path of the storm and subsequent storm surge. Afterward, a small group of New Orleans women who were pregnant or postpartum at the time of the storm described their harrowing experiences when evacuating. Their poignant stories revealed heartbreaking losses of loved ones, a lack of resources care for their families, threats to the safety of themselves and their children, an inability to provide health care for their children, and increased responsibilities for the care of other family members (to learn more, see the reference in the box). The stories of these women give us a partial picture of the types of ordeals that pregnant and postpartum women may experience after a major natural disaster.

The CDC DRH had been active in previous emergency responses, but Hurricane Katrina was a wake-up call. This hurricane and subsequent response revealed that in order to be fully prepared, we needed to know more about

  • The potential effects of disasters on women of reproductive age
  • The proportion of these women who prepare for disasters
  • How to estimate the number of pregnant women in a disaster-affected area
  • The sampling approaches that could be used to capture representative information on all disaster-affected women of reproductive age
  • What health indicators should be measured for disaster-affected pregnant and postpartum women and infants

To facilitate more efficient post-emergency assessment for women of reproductive age, DRH collaborated with the University of North Carolina Center for Public Health Preparedness to create a ready-to-deploy toolkit with pilot-tested questionnaires ( so that public health partners can quickly assess post-disaster reproductive needs and respond to them.

It often takes a decade after a major disaster for literature that answers critical questions to become available. DRH worked with local, state and federal partners to evaluate what works and what does not when assisting women of reproductive age during a disaster. Our work is still evolving, but we have developed an array of tools for a variety of disasters, including natural disasters, infectious disease outbreaks, and preparedness for an anthrax bioterrorism event. Information about these tools will be shared in the Jun. 16 webinar, but in case you would like to review them beforehand, you can find some of the tools on the DRH Emergency Preparedness and Response website: Lastly, we are in the process of creating an online training for U.S. public health and health care professionals pertaining to reproductive health and disaster. This training is scheduled to be released in 2016.

We look forward to joining you for the June webinar!new high res image 12 3 11.JPG

Read the Stories of Some Pregnant and Postpartum Women Who Experienced Hurricane Katrina
Zotti ME, Tong, V. T., Kieltyka, L, Brown-Bryant, R. Factors Influencing Evacuation Decisions among High-Risk Pregnant and Postpartum Women. In: David E, Enarson E, eds. The Women of Katrina. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press; 2012:90-104.