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Chronic Medical Conditions and Public Health Emergencies

What are chronic medical conditions?

A chronic medical condition is a disease or illness that you have for a long time. Diseases like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, are the leading causes of death and disability in the United States. Chronic conditions are a common health problem.

How can a public health emergency affect my health if I have a chronic condition?

Disasters and other large-scale events can lead to public health emergencies. Chronic conditions can get worse due to the conditions caused by a disaster. Things like lack of food or clean water, extremes of cold or heat, physical and mental illness, injury, power outages, access to medications, and exposure to infections can worsen chronics conditions.

During a disaster, many services you depend on may not be available. A lack of these services can put you at risk in an emergency. A leading cause of death after disasters is lack of regular health care. You can help to lower your risk by planning ahead.

What can I do to prepare if I have a chronic medical condition?

Because we don’t know when a disaster will happen, it’s important for people with chronic conditions, and their caregivers to make plans. Here are some tips to help you plan for and control your chronic condition during a disaster.

  • Keep a supply of medications. Take your medication with you if you evacuate. Stock up on your medication if a severe storm is coming.

  • Let your friends and family know of your condition and how to help you in an emergency.

  • Pack an emergency kit.

  • Talk to your doctors about emergency medical plans. Ask questions about your medical care and what you should do if disaster strikes and your doctor cannot care for you.

  • If you need regular treatments, determine who will provide this for you if the clinic or doctor is not available. In some cases a family member can learn how to give medications and treatments during an emergency. In the case of more complicated treatment, contact the local hospital emergency department to arrange treatment during an emergency.

  • Get copies of your medical reports.

  • Plan where you will go and who will care for you if you have to leave your community. Your doctor can tell you about clinics and doctors in other communities.

  • Talk to your doctor about ways to have an emergency supply of medications. Here are some tips:

    1. Arrange for mail-order delivery from your insurance company. You can often get your medications shipped in 3-month supplies.
    2. Ask your doctor for sample medications. Samples typically expire quickly, so be sure to swap them with some of your regular medications and put the regular ones in your emergency kit.
    3. Identify the closest pharmacy to your home.

  • Try not to worry. Stick to your plans and use your energy to stay focused.

FEMA and the American Red Cross suggest that people prepare for emergencies by storing food, water, flashlights, radios, and other supplies.

Chronic conditions

Click on the chronic conditions below to learn more about how a disaster could affect a person living with the condition and the health benefits of continued treatment even during a disaster.


Visit the pages below to learn more about how you can prepare for public health emergencies.

Everybody Ready Handbook
Health Information Card
Health Bulletin