Web-based Empowerment Program for Disaster Survivors

Period of Performance: 09/15/2012 - 01/31/2013


Phase 2 STTR

Recipient Firm

Bluesun, Inc.
Colorado Springs, CO 80905
Principal Investigator


DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): This Phase II proposal integrates emerging technologies to expand the behavioral health capabilities and technological sophistication of the Journey to Disaster RecoveryTM website. This web-based system is designed to help restore a sense of control (i.e. coping efficacy) and mastery to survivors by providing a) knowledge to assist in understanding the recovery process, b) skill training to manage trauma related distress, and c) assistance in determining the need for and access to professional assistance. This project provides three essential developments with scientific and technical impact. First, it expands the technical sophistication and capabilities of the website to make it easy to customize and more responsive to different disaster/user needs. Second, it provides a critical scientific evaluation of the site's effectiveness to enhance mental health in the acute phase of disaster recovery helping to extend the very limited current knowledge base in this area. Third, it creates important training opportunities and evaluation with disaster response groups in disaster prone areas of the United States. Our ultimate goal is to provide the most reliable, customizable, and culturally based interactive, web system for empowering disaster survivors. The specific aims for this project are: Aim 1: Generate and evaluate the effectiveness of a content management system to enable highly efficient web customization. This system will integrate with a database of stored information rendered for different users (e.g., pictures, video, and text for different ages, genders, and ethnicities). Aim 2: Extend the technological and psychological reach of the site to incorporate Smartphone technology, allowing the system to deliver real time, interactive support and skill development. This will provide extensive avenues for future scientific exploration about human computer interactions related to disaster mental health. Aim 3: Expand the scientific evaluation of Journey to Disaster RecoveryTM by conducting a large randomized controlled trial during the acute phase of disaster recovery. This will broaden the current knowledge base about Internet interventions for disasters. Aim 4: Develop a web-based training and support system that instructs disaster behavioral health counselors about how to use the site in face-to-face counseling sessions. A quasi-experimental wait-list study will test the utility of the website as a training tool with crisis counselors. Aim 5: Complete and evaluate the cultural sensitivity and relevance of the Spanish language version of the site, MI RECUPERACISN. Given the number of native Spanish speakers in disaster prone areas, a culturally sensitive Spanish version of the site is essential. PUBLIC HEALTH RELEVANCE: The research involved in this Phase II STTR application will provide critical information about the efficacy of a web-based support system for disaster survivors to reduce their psychological distress and promote empowerment. At least 50 percent of disaster survivors report experiencing moderate to severe psychological distress and face barriers to accessing care including: cost of services, lack of knowledge about where services are available, and the stigma of seeking care. Journey to Disaster RecoveryTM provides a unique resource to reach beyond these barriers by offering a highly customizable, culturally relevant, anonymous, theoretically- based system with enhanced scalability to support disaster survivors.