Methods: Using the Arksey & O’Malley (2005) model of a scoping review to broadly summarize existing literature, we identified studies that answered the primary research question: What is the role of youth and young adults in community natural disaster mitigation and response? The search strategy was developed by a research team that included health sciences librarians. A comprehensive electronic search was conducted using several databases (i.e.., Web of Science, PsycINFO, Social Work Abstracts, ERIC, and Environment Complete) and keywords and index terms were searched using relevant terms associated with four concepts: (1) age (e.g., youth, young adult, teen), (2) participation type (e.g., engagement, centered, participation), (3) natural disaster type (e.g., hurricane, tsunami, earthquake, severe weather event), and (4) disaster response type (e.g., planning, mitigation, resilience).
Results: The search yielded 187 studies published between 1990-2020. Of these studies, 19 met inclusion criteria that included research on the role of youth or young adults between the ages of 16-24 in mitigation and response to natural disasters in their communities. Identified studies focused on mitigation and recovery efforts in eight different countries responding to natural disasters including earthquakes, floods, volcanoes, hurricanes, landslides, and tsunamis. Themes of youth participation or youth-led efforts focused on: community mobilization and resilience (n = 5), youth empowerment and youth as agents of change (n = 6), knowledge and communication (n = 2), education-community partnerships (n = 4), participation in policy and advocacy (n = 1), and post-disaster rescue efforts and first-aid (n = 1).
Conclusions and Implications: With a changing climate and increase in weather related natural disasters, as well as in the context of a global health pandemic, community based groups would benefit from learning from international efforts to engage youth and young adults in disaster mitigation and recovery efforts. This scoping review identifies key elements of these efforts to potentially inform the development of relevant, cost-effective, and culturally appropriate interventions that encourage and empower youth involvement in mitigation and response efforts.