Claire Pendergrast

Project title: Evaluation of Public Health-Seattle & King County’s Stay Safe in the Heat! comic with King County older adults

Degree: MPH | Program: Environmental and Occupational Health (EOH) | Project type: Practicum
Completed in: 2018 | Faculty advisor: Tania M Busch Isaksen


Risk communication is an essential element to promoting disaster preparedness and building community resilience to disasters, which pose a serious and growing threat to public health and well-being due to climate change. Some groups are especially vulnerable to negative health impacts caused by disasters, and a recent study of the health risks of extreme heat in King County, Washington found that older adults experience greater risk of heat-related illness than other age groups. Public Health - Seattle & King County’s Community Resilience & Equity Program is committed to providing linguistically and culturally appropriate disaster risk communications materials to ensure essential information reaches all populations in King County, particularly those most vulnerable to disproportionate impacts related to disasters. The Community Resilience & Equity Program developed an innovative risk communication tool to educate vulnerable groups on the health risks of extreme heat. Heat safety knowledge, attitudes, and practices and perspectives on heat-related health risks and informal focus group discussions were used to assess the effectiveness and appropriateness of the tool for King County older adults. Findings suggested that the comic was effective at increasing older adults’ awareness of heat-related health risks and motivating recommended behaviors to reduce health risks from extreme heat. Older adults felt the comic was engaging and expressed appreciation for the comic’s representation of diverse ethnic groups and age groups. Future disaster risk communication interventions for older adults should consider using comics as a communication tool.