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Algorithm identifies vulnerable people during natural disasters

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Ralph Philbrick
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A new algorithm developed at the University of Waterloo will help first responders and home care providers better help the elderly during natural disasters.

According to the World Health Organization, older adults who live at home face disproportionally high fatality rates during natural disasters as evidenced by Hurricane Katrina where 71 per cent of the deaths resulting from that disaster involved people over 60 years of age.

"Frailty combined with social isolation can mean that older adults still living at home have nowhere to turn during emergencies," said John Hirdes, a researcher in the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences at the University of Waterloo.

"With a growing proportion of elderly persons choosing to reside in their own homes, it's a very real concern.

Hirdes is also the senior Canadian researcher for interRAI, an international network of researchers committed to improving care and quality of life for vulnerable populations.

The algorithm uses data from interRAI's home care assessment to generate an up-to-date list of vulnerable adults using home care services.

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Ralph Philbrick
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