Explicit, implicit and internalised: Bias and large bodies in disaster risk reduction (2020)
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Background: Bias is well recognised in job recruitment: those we favour, those we are less likely to employ, and those who do not even get on the shortlist. Some decisions are purposeful and explicit, other decisions are unconsciously made (implicit). At a time when implicit bias relating to sexual orientation and ethnicity move towards a more neutral stance, implicit bias has increased for large bodied people. Method: Multi-method research was undertaken. Fifty-one emergency managers participated in an exploratory online survey. Data were analysed and described. Sixteen large bodied people and eleven health or emergency managers participated in semi-structured interviews. Interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed and inductive thematic analysis undertaken. Results: While large bodied people believe that emergency management should consider their additional needs, emergency managers are not currently planning for or specifically considering large bodied people. Planning decisions for evacuation were likely to be influenced by how much time and resource one larger person would require versus several smaller people. Some of the large bodied people interviewed also suggested that the needs of others should take priority over themselves Conclusion: Despite significant numbers of large bodied people in Aotearoa New Zealand (population prevalence: total population 5.5%, Pacific People’s 21%, Māori 12%) size, shape or weight is not currently considered in disaster planning. Disaster triage or evacuation decisions by emergency managers may be influenced by implicit and explicit bias. Similarly, a larger bodied person volunteering for others to be ‘saved’ ahead of themselves may involve internalised bias. Individuals, health and emergency personnel need to recognise and explore their own biases and how these may shape planning and response decisions made.
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