Health Studies (HS)

HS provides expertise in CASPER to local, state, tribal, territorial, federal and foreign public health partners to help them prepare for and respond to natural and man-made disasters as well as non-disaster situations. HS provides technical assistance, whether remotely or in field, for those requesting assistance. Below are examples a broad range of examples conducted with HS assistance. See the Interactive Map of CASPERs for more examples.

The Maricopa County Department of Health, with technical assistance from CDC, conducted a CASPER in March 2015 in two populations (low and high heat-injury rate) to help assess the awareness of the community on the availability of cooling centers or any impeding factors in using the cooling centers as well preparedness of the community for heat disasters. The results of this assessment provided important information regarding community risk perception, emergency preparedness, heat knowledge and vulnerability. They also highlight successes and areas of improvement for Maricopa County services and resources.

The West Virginia Bureau for Public Health, with assistance from CDC, conducted a CASPER in April 2014 to help evaluate the response to the January 2014 chemical spill of 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol (MCHM) and a mixture of propylene glycol phenyl ethers (PPH) into the water supply and improve future responses. While the “Do Not Use” water order for nine counties was lifted 10 days after the contamination of the water supply to approximately 100,000 West Virginia households in January, the community’s use of public water systems, information sources, alternative sources of water, and perception of health impacts and public water system safety remained unclear in April. The CASPER looked at the following: 1) perceived impact of the chemical spill on households, 2) provide WVBPH with information on household water use and practices before, during, and after the “Do Not Use” order, and 3) communications to identify effective approaches for the current and future events. Results of the assessment provided information for the ongoing recovery efforts in West Virginia including messaging, preparedness, and community awareness. For more information, go to pdf icon[PDF – 1.33 MB]external icon

The Lake County Public Health Division, with assistance from CDC, conducted a CASPER in November 2012 to describe the knowledge and risk perception of Lake County communities regarding geothermal venting. Lake County, California, is in north central California and sits on tectonic plate conjunctions (generally described as areas where separate slabs of the earth’s crust meet). Consequently, Lake County’s population—currently at some 64,323 persons—has long been subjected to volcanic activity resulting from plate tectonics, or the movement of these giant slabs, which makes it vulnerable to a variety of environmental hazards, including earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and geothermal venting. The CASPER assessed household demographics, home characteristics, and awareness, experiences, and concerns about geothermal venting. Results of the CASPER identified many households with characteristics that could make them vulnerable to both the exposure and the effects of geothermal venting and informed the Lake County Public Health Division of some public concern. For more information, go to icon

The Oakland County Health Division (OCHD) and the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH), with assistance from CDC, conducted a CASPER in September 2010 to assess the level of household emergency preparedness in Oakland County, Michigan. Due to its location near the Great Lakes, Michigan is susceptible to extreme weather events such as ice/snow storms and tornadoes as well as being at risk for other emergency events such as power outages, chemical spills, and the potential for radiation emergencies due to the proximity to the Fermi Nuclear Power Plant in Monroe County, Michigan. The CASPER assessed the following: 1) the types of emergency preparations households have in place; 2) the frequency of households with residents who may have special medical needs in an emergency because of health conditions; 3) the most trusted and main sources of information for a household during a radiation emergency; 4) the likelihood that households would follow public health instructions following a disaster involving radiation; and 5) the frequency of households that would need to care for a pet or a non-household dependent during an emergency. Results of the CASPER provided information to the local and state health departments on resource planning, community preparedness, communications, and health messaging, as well as knowledge transfer and capacity building for the state and local public health in conducting a CASPER. For more information, go to pdf icon[PDF – 740 KB]external icon

The Alabama Department of Public Health and the Mississippi State Department of Health, with assistance from CDC, conducted three CASPERs along the Gulf Coast counties in the fall of 2010 to determine the general and mental health needs of the community following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. On April 20, 2010, the Mobile Offshore Drilling Unit (MODU) Deepwater Horizon exploded 40 miles south of the coast of Louisiana resulting in 11 deaths, 17 injuries, and the largest marine petroleum release in history. The released crude oil has prolonged negative effects on marine biota and potential health hazards for those exposed to or affected by the oil spill. The CASPERs collected information on physical health including respiratory, cardiovascular, dermal and ocular conditions; mental health including anxiety, depression, social context and quality of life, and behavioral health including alcohol use, drug use, and violence. Respondents also answered questions about changes in income, recreational activities on the coast, and consumption of seafood. Results informed the health department of the impact of the spill and lead to support for funding of mental health programs along the Gulf Coast. For more information, go to pdf icon[PDF – 350 KB]external icon. Follow-up CASPERs were conducted in 2011, 2012, and 2013 to assess the continuing needs of the community.

The American Samoa Department of Health, with assistance from the US Health and Human Services (HHS) and CDC, conducted two CASPERs in October 2009 to assess community public health needs resulting from the earthquake and ensuing tsunami that struck American Samoa on September 29, 2009. The initial CASPER assessed basic public health needs of affected communities, special needs and vulnerable populations, and environmental and other health hazards that could lead to further morbidity and mortality. The follow-up CASPER three weeks later assessed the ongoing community public health issues and needs and assess the effectiveness of the public health response since the initial CASPER. Results from the CASPERs were used by the American Samoa Department of Health to help prioritize and direct resources to address immediate and ongoing needs, as well as to assess response and recovery efforts on the island. For more information, go to icon.

The Green River District Health Department, with technical assistance from CDC, conducted a CASPER in December 2009 to determine residents’ awareness of the three proposed gasification facilities as well as perceived risks and benefits. The Coal Industry proposed to build “clean-coal” gasification facilities in the Area, potentially affecting the health and economic status of over 219,000 residents. The CASPER assessed the perceived risks and benefits and the potential influence of residents relationship to the coal/electric industry and current disease/illness state of the household. Results were used as part of a larger Health Impact Assessment in the area.

The Kentucky Department for Public Health, with assistance from CDC and the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) Applied Public Health Teams, conducted four CASPERs in February 2009 in response to the massive ice storms that hit the area on January 26, 2009. The storm caused 36 deaths and left 770,000 people without power across the state, some for more than two weeks. The CASPER assessed the needs of 10 severely impacted counties in the western part of the state regarding storm-related injuries and illnesses, generator use, availability of basic necessities, barriers to shelter use, and special needs. Results informed the Kentucky Department for Public Health on their ongoing recovery efforts including the continued need to disseminate public health messages about carbon monoxide poisoning as well as inform future response plans such as including pet-friendly shelters, having alternative communication mechanisms, and a better way to address the special needs of supplemental oxygen dependent individuals. For more information, go to pdf icon[PDF – 171 KB].

Question Bank

HS has multiple questionnaires and reports from previous CASPERs available. Please click on the links provided from the Interactive map of CASPERs or contact Amy Schnall ( for information on past CASPERs. To assist in the development of questionnaires, several resources are available online that create a question bank.

Page last reviewed: February 17, 2016