Preparing for the big one: inclusion in disaster risk reduction

Q. Who is the odd one out? 

Bad graphic design of a fat person, a dog and a person in a wheelchair

A. The puppy – because the puppy has been considered in emergency planning in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Dr Lesley Gray’s PhD completed in 2022 looked at disaster risk reduction for fat and/or big bodied people.  She found that fat people have been left behind in previous disasters in direct association with their weight or width.  She explored with emergency planners and responders what their existing arrangements and considerations were for fat people and was not really surprised to learn hardly any considerations existed, but was really pleased to hear what responders from the Salvation Army had done. 

Lesley also interviewed people identifying as fat and dispelled a few myths in her thesis in the process.  What is concerning is that most fat people interviewed expected emergency services to help out if they needed assistance in a disaster, and in reality this is unlikely.  Fat people interviewed had not really given their own disaster planning much thought (like most people in NZ), but the process of being interviewed by Lesley assisted their own thinking and planning.

So … Lesley would like to have a chat with Camp participants about disaster preparedness to give (and receive) helpful tips. Lesley has also co-authored with Lynn McAfee (Council on Size and Weight Discrimination, USA) to document Lynn’s own self evacuation story from an imminent hurricane in the USA.  Lesley is keen to document more disaster experiences so that the emergency management sector in NZ and beyond can learn from these experiences to ensure fat people are no longer conspicuously invisible.

Meet Lesley

Lesley has been an academic at the University of Otago School Of Medicine, Wellington, New Zealand since 2008.  Lesley has a background in primary health care in rural and remote British Islands. She specialised in public health and was a Fellow of the UK Faculty of Public Health before emigrating to Aotearoa New Zealand.

Lesley’s research and teaching concerns risk communication and action with a particular focus on social justice for marginalised populations such as fat bodied people and gender diverse people.

Lesley has been an affiliate of the Joint Centre for Disaster Research (Massey University and GNS Science, New Zealand) since 2010.  She recently completed her PhD with the Centre, researching disaster risk reduction considerations for fat and/or big bodied people and her thesis was recently recognised on the Dean’s List of Exceptional Theses.   Lesley worked closely with Dr Cat Pausé debunking health myths with health professionals and more recently on injustices to fat people in the COVID-19 pandemic.  Lesley, George Parker and Ash Gillon are continuing this work in Cat’s honour.

Published by Joanna

Joanna founded House of Boom in 2018

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