Social work disaster research has largely focused on qualitative assessment methodologies rather than on quantitative risk modeling. In part, due to the complex nature of people, social structures, and culture, it is also due to the multi-disciplinary approach that is required to undertake such research. No single investigation into vulnerability indicators can provide a holistic and comprehensive assessment. However, there are aspects of vulnerability that can be explored and represented through the development and application of quantitative vulnerability indicators Given the complexities of disasters and the intersection of racial and economic inequality within a disaster context, it is imperative that social work scholars and practitioners be at the forefront of critical discourse about disaster resilience theory and practice.
Social work scholars can offer valuable insight into problems of definition and conceptual measurement as well as the ways in which social vulnerability is interpreted within a cultural context. The proposed symposium offers four papers that present research utilizing social vulnerability concepts within a domain of disasters, with the purpose to critically engage with and enhance definitions of theoretical constructs as well as uses of vulnerability concepts in practice.
In paper 1 Patel and Ferreira investigated the role of social networks, risk perceptions, preparedness measures, individual resilience, and social vulnerability as predictors of preparedness and resilience amongst Vietnamese and Non-Vietnamese Individuals exposed to the Deepwater Horizon disaster. In paper 2 Leytham Powell, Scott, Suarez and Morales present research that examines the long-term impact of a mental health intervention designed for care providers during the post Maria recovery. In paper 3 Hansel et al. investigated long term recovery and effects of disaster, traumatic experiences, demographics and family concerns on youth well-being post Hurricane Katrina. Paper 4 Francois evaluates access to quality, integrated and sustainable community-based primary care at community health centers (CHCs) serving vulnerable Gulf South communities impacted by the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
These four papers and moderated discussion offer a timely opportunity for social work scholars to engage in a critical consideration of the role of social vulnerability in both research and practice; the complexity of defining social vulnerability concepts in a disaster context; and an expanded understanding of the role of social vulnerability at both micro and macro levels.