Impactivo highlights the challenges and lessons learned after Hurricanes Irma and María

After Hurricane Maria passed through Puerto Rico, health action was imminent to protect the communities from any threat to their health. For this reason, through the Caribbean Strong: Building Resilience with Equity Conference, different colloquiums were held on the interventions that public and private organizations made to meet the needs of the communities. The conference was celebrated in February 2019 at the Sheraton Convention Center in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Activities included presentations of campaigns and research, as well as talks with local and international panelists.

Impactivo’s CEO, María Fernanda Levis, participated in the discussion on Resilience and Communication. The panel included: Alexandra Reyes Rivera, supervisor of the WIC program; Ashley Andújar, Team Lead of CDC promotions, and Julieanne Miranda Bermúdez of community mobilization of the Vector Control Unit. Each participant focused on the importance of communication to the community in times of disaster, specifically the response to hurricanes and building resilience for future preparations.

Ms. Levis shared with the audience the results of the SALÚDame Saludable campaign, the challenges faced by the Impactivo team after the hurricanes and the lessons learned. The sense of responsibility and the ability to mobilize collaborators during the emergency was what prompted Impactivo to collaborate since there was an unknown regarding the actions to follow in the event of a disaster. Impactivo was able to mobilize a week after Hurricane Maria and reach the offices of the Puerto Rico Department of Health (PRDoH) to establish an action plan and start working in the communities.

The PRDoH requested from Impactivo help in providing information as quickly as possible to the people. Since Impactivo is a private entity, a “non-granted” campaign could be quickly developed to disseminated the information related to health after the hurricane.

Impactivo had a great responsibility: how to take the information to the communities when all communication systems were out of service? The #ImpactivoTeam went to print media. Through El Nuevo Día newspaper, the consulting firm managed to circulate the campaign, SALÚDame Saludable for several weeks. Then other challenges arose, for example, how to transport the printed materials to the communities if the roads were closed by debris, trees, and fallen poles.

#Impactivistas are catalysts for change. Inspired by the motto: “We make connections that catalyze change”, they looked for a solution to the transportation challenge. Impactivo joined two companies that are responsible for the dissemination of medicines and had the heavy equipment to carry out the work. Two weeks after the hurricane, the dissemination of informational materials was completed.

The SALÚDame Saludable campaign focused primarily on high priority public health needs that included: access to potable water, waste disposal, vector control, and generator management. After the main issues arose other needs such as the management of chronic conditions during a disaster, management of medicines without refrigeration for diabetics, and various mental health issues. Thanks to the teamwork between Impactivo, the National Network of Public Health Institutes and the Regional Public Health Training Centers, more than 30 collaborators were activated nationwide to support the rehabilitation efforts. It stands out as a lesson learned that in times of disasters the networks of collaborators are of vital importance to achieving the goal of keeping our communities healthy.

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