A lifesaving partnership between Canadian Red Cross and interRAI will ensure help reaches vulnerable people in times of disaster

Topics: National, Emergencies and Disasters in Canada
June 13, 2013

(TORONTO) – A new partnership between Canadian Red Cross and interRAI will bring together interRAI’s expertise in health assessments and the experience of Canadian Red Cross in disaster response and community health services to ensure the most vulnerable Canadians receive the right help quickly in times of emergency.

The interRAI suite of assessment tools have been recognized internationally and adopted as the standard approach to evaluating the health needs of vulnerable persons in community-based and facility-based settings in eight Canadian provinces/territories.  

A partnership between the two organizations will begin to look at health assessment data and determine at a local planning level, who are the most vulnerable in our communities, how best they can be identified in times of emergency and how first responders can quickly receive that information to assist these individuals.   InterRAI data have already been utilized to respond during the earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand in 2011; however, Canada is the first country to begin work on formalizing tools for a coordinated response with health assessment data.

“Understanding who in our communities are most vulnerable and what their health needs are is critical to providing fast and effective assistance in times of disaster,” says Lori Holloway, national director for health programs with the Canadian Red Cross.  “The partnership with interRAI will enable us to ensure these valuable tools are used to the fullest extent in times of community emergency.”

“This partnership will marry the wealth of expertise of the Red Cross and interRAI Canada team and the power of  interRAI data to build innovative solutions which improve community health care,” says Dr. John Hirdes, Professor, School of Public Health and Health Systems, University of Waterloo.  “Our collaboration will build a bridge from the assessment of health needs to the provision of assistance in times of emergency.”

In Christchurch, New Zealand, the home care records based on interRAI assessments were used to target those who were at immediate risk due to isolation or limited caregiver support, as well as those who may have difficulty dealing with a chaotic situation due to health issues or physical impairments.  The cooperation between interRAI, home care agencies and civil defence resulted in the safe evacuation or relocation of hundreds of seniors and others who were vulnerable.  Building on the experience of Christchurch, interRAI and the Canadian Red Cross over the next three years will refine decision support systems to identify vulnerable persons in advance of disasters, develop a complementary system for evaluating persons affected by disasters and create new protocols for first responders who would deal directly with individuals with compromised health or wellness issues.

“The Canadian Red Cross responds every four hours to disasters in Canada ranging from house fires to forest fires and flooding, and every day hundreds of our volunteers and staff deliver a variety of community-based health services including transportation, nutrition programs and supportive housing,” says Holloway.  “The ability to have access to a comprehensive assessment of community needs, particularly in light of our aging population, is absolutely essential to the ability of authorities, emergency responders and service providers to deliver help at the most critical times to the most vulnerable.”



About interRAI:

interRAI is a collaborative network of researchers in over thirty countries committed to improving care for vulnerable persons.  The interRAI consortium strives to promote evidence-informed clinical practice and policy decision making through the collection and interpretation of high- quality data about the characteristics and outcomes of persons served across a variety of health and social services settings.  The interRAI Canada team is led by Dr. John Hirdes at the University of Waterloo.


About the Canadian Red Cross:

The Canadian Red Cross is a member of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, which includes the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the International Committee of the Red Cross and 188 national Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. The Canadian Red Cross mission is to improve the lives of vulnerable people by mobilizing the power of humanity.  In Canada, the Canadian Red Cross responds every four hours to disasters ranging from house fires to forest fires and flooding.  Each year, Red Cross volunteers deliver tens of thousands of hours of community-based health services to those aging or recovering in their own homes from illness or surgery.

Media Contacts:

Tanya Elliott
Canadian Red Cross

Leslie Eckel
interRAI Canada
519-888-4567 x 36736

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