The reasons for global health crises and how the world responds to them have dramatically changed over the last half century. Increasingly, natural disasters result in failure of public health and security systems leading to preventable conflict, unconventional war and unprecedented population migration. While scientific expertise exists to mitigate these failures in fragile states and ungoverned territories, inactions are mired by the lack of political will, international legal mandates, and capacity to strategically monitor multidisciplinary public health indicator failures.
The recent Philippine National Health Research System (PNHRS) Week Celebration highlighted the growing commitment to Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) in the Philippines. The event was lead by the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology and the Department of Health, and saw the participation of national and international experts in DRR, and numerous research consortia from all over the Philippines. With a central focus on the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the DRR related events recognised the significant disaster risks faced in the Philippines. They also illustrated the Philippine strengths and experience in DRR. Key innovations in science and technology showcased at the conference include the web-base hazard mapping applications ‘Project NOAH’ and ‘FaultFinder’. Other notable innovations include ‘Surveillance in Post Extreme Emergencies and Disasters’ (SPEED) which monitors potential outbreaks through a syndromic reporting system. Three areas noted for further development in DRR science and technology included: integrated national hazard assessment, strengthened collaboration, and improved documentation. Finally, the event saw the proposal to develop the Philippines into a global hub for DRR. The combination of the risk profile of the Philippines, established national structures and experience in DRR, as well as scientific and technological innovation in this field are potential factors that could position the Philippines as a future global leader in DRR. The purpose of this article is to formally document the key messages of the DRR-related events of the PNHRS Week Celebration.
An increasing number of international emergency medical teams are deployed to assist disaster-affected populations worldwide. Since Haiti earthquake those teams have been criticised for ill adapted care, lack of preparedness in addition to not coordinating with the affected country healthcare system. The Emergency Medical Teams (EMTs) initiative, as part of the Word Health Organization’s Global Health Emergency Workforce program, aims to address these shortcomings by improved EMT coordination, and mechanisms to ensure quality and accountability of national and international EMTs. An essential component to reach this goal is appropriate education and training. Multiple disaster education and training programs are available. However, most are centred on individuals’ professional development rather than on the EMTs operational performance. Moreover, no common overarching or standardised training frameworks exist. In this report, an expert panel review and discuss the current approaches to disaster education and training and propose a three-step operational learning framework that could be used for EMTs globally. The proposed framework includes the following steps: 1) ensure professional competence and license to practice, 2) support adaptation of technical and non-technical professional capacities into the low-resource and emergency context and 3) prepare for an effective team performance in the field. A combination of training methodologies is also recommended, including individual theory based education, immersive simulations and team training. Agreed curriculum and open access training materials for EMTs need to be further developed, ideally through collaborative efforts between WHO, operational EMT organizations, universities, professional bodies and training agencies. Keywords: disasters; education; emergencies; global health; learning
Outcomes of the World Humanitarian Summit were mixed with some refreshing new directions being endorsed and a lack of systemic reform. The selective agenda and OCHAs lack of success in engaging pre-meeting political participation not only hampered the Summit’s ability to deal with global issues and institutional reform, but also alienated it from leading aid agencies and governments. The UN’s failure to commit to humanitarian principles and global disarray of the humanitarian system indicates the need for extensive reform or a new global humanitarian body. This agency needs to employ a decentralized model to manage aid funds, assume coordination of international responses, resolve civil-military coordination, cater for people affected by both conflict and disasters, and professionalize the humanitarian career.
Introduction: With a renewed emphasis on evidence-based risk sensitive investment promoted under the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, technical demands for analytical tools such as probabilistic cost-benefit analysis (CBA) will likely increase in the foreseeable future. This begs a number of pragmatic questions such as whether or not sophisticated quantitative appraisal tools are effective in raising policy awareness and what alternatives are available.
Method: This article briefly reviews current practices of analytical tools such as probabilistic cost-benefit analysis and identifies issues associated with its applications in small scale community based DRR interventions.
Results: The article illustrate that while best scientific knowledge should inform policy and practice in principle, it should not create an unrealistic expectation that the state-of-the art methods must be used in all cases, especially for small scale DRR interventions in developing countries, where data and resource limitations and uncertainty are high, and complex interaction and feedback may exist between DRR investment, community response and longer-term development outcome.
Discussion: Alternative and more participatory approaches for DRR appraisals are suggested which includes participatory serious games that are increasingly being used to raise awareness and identify pragmatic strategies for change that are needed to bring about successful uptake of DRR investment and implementation of DRR mainstreaming.
Hazardous chemical, radiological, and nuclear materials threaten public health in scenarios of accidental or intentional release which can lead to external contamination of people. Without intervention, the contamination could cause severe adverse health effects, through systemic absorption by the contaminated casualties as well as spread of contamination to other people, medical equipment, and facilities. Timely decontamination can prevent or interrupt absorption into the body and minimize opportunities for spread of the contamination, thereby mitigating the health impact of the incident. Although the specific physicochemical characteristics of the hazardous material(s) will determine the nature of an incident and its risks, some decontamination and medical challenges and recommended response strategies are common among chemical and radioactive material incidents. Furthermore, the identity of the hazardous material released may not be known early in an incident. Therefore, it may be beneficial to compare the evidence and harmonize approaches between chemical and radioactive contamination incidents. Experts from the Global Health Security Initiative’s Chemical and Radiological/Nuclear Working Groups present here a succinct summary of guiding principles for planning and response based on current best practices, as well as research needs, to address the challenges of managing contaminated casualties in a chemical or radiological/nuclear incident.
In the health sector, it has become clear that staff who feel better supported deliver better care. Can disaster management learn from this drive to ensure compassionate care to avoid the perils of burnout and empathy exhaustion?
Disaster education needs innovative educational methods to be more effective compared to traditional approaches. This can be done by using virtual simulation method. This article presents an experience about using virtual simulation methods to teach health professional on disaster medicine in Iran.
The workshop on the “Application of New Technologies in Disaster Management Simulation” was held in Tehran in January 2015. It was co-organized by the Disaster and Emergency Health Academy of Tehran University of Medical Sciences and Emergency and the Research Center in Disaster Medicine and Computer Science applied to Medicine (CRIMEDIM), Università del Piemonte Orientale. Different simulators were used by the participants, who were from the health system and other relevant fields, both inside and outside Iran.
As a result of the workshop, all the concerned stakeholders are called on to support this new initiative of incorporating virtual training and exercise simulation in the field of disaster medicine, so that its professionals are endowed with field-based and practical skills in Iran and elsewhere.
Virtual simulation technology is recommended to be used in education of disaster management. This requires capacity building of instructors, and provision of technologies. International collaboration can facilitate this process. Keywords: Virtual simulation, disaster management, education, training, Iran
Twitter can be an effective tool for disaster risk reduction but gaps in education and training exist in current public health and disaster management educational competency standards. Eleven core public health and disaster management competencies are proposed that incorporate Twitter as a tool for effective disaster risk reduction. Greater funding is required to promote the education and training of this tool for those in professional schools and in the current public health and disaster management workforce.
Long before the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the United States was already experiencing a failure of confidence between politicians and scientists, primarily focused on differences of opinion on climate extremes. This ongoing clash has culminated in an environment where politicians most often no longer listen to scientists. Importation of Ebola virus to the United States prompted an immediate political fervor over travel bans, sealing off borders and disputes over the reliability of both quarantine and treatment protocol. This demonstrated that evidenced- based scientific discourse risks taking a back seat to political hyperbole and fear. The role of public health and medical expertise should be to ensure that cogent response strategies, based upon good science and accumulated knowledge and experience, are put in place to help inform the development of sound public policy. But in times of crisis, such reasoned expertise and experience are too often overlooked in favor of the partisan press “sound bite”, where fear and insecurity have proved to be severely counterproductive. While scientists recognize that science cannot be entirely apolitical, the lessons from the impact of Ebola on political discourse shows that there is need for stronger engagement of the scientific community in crafting messages required for response to such events. This includes the creation of moral and ethical standards for the press, politicians and scientists, a partnership of confidence between the three that does not now exist and an “elected officials” toolbox that helps to translate scientific evidence and experience into readily acceptable policy and public communication.
This paper maps key research questions for humanitarian health ethics: the ethical dimensions of healthcare provision and public health activities during international responses to situations of humanitarian crisis. Development of this research agenda was initiated at the Humanitarian Health Ethics Forum (HHE Forum) convened in Hamilton, Canada in November 2012. The HHE Forum identified priority avenues for advancing policy and practice for ethics in humanitarian health action. The main topic areas examined were: experiences and perceptions of humanitarian health ethics; training and professional development initiatives for humanitarian health ethics; ethics support for humanitarian health workers; impact of policies and project structures on humanitarian health ethics; and theoretical frameworks and ethics lenses. Key research questions for each topic area are presented, as well as proposed strategies for advancing this research agenda. Pursuing the research agenda will help strengthen the ethical foundations of humanitarian health action.
Introduction: This paper aims to raise awareness regarding ethical issues in the context of humanitarian action, and to offer a framework for systematically and effectively addressing such issues.
Methods: Several cases highlight ethical issues that humanitarian aid workers are confronted with at different levels over the course of their deployments. The first case discusses a situation at a macro-level concerning decisions being made at the headquarters of a humanitarian organization. The second case looks at meso-level issues that need to be solved at a country or regional level. The third case proposes an ethical dilemma at the micro-level of the individual patient-provider relationship.
Discussion: These real-life cases have been selected to illustrate the ethical dimension of conflicts within the context of humanitarian action that might remain unrecognized in everyday practice. In addition, we propose an ethical framework to assist humanitarian aid workers in their decision-making process. The framework draws on the principles and values that guide humanitarian action and public health ethics more generally. Beyond identifying substantive core values, the framework also includes a ten-step process modelled on tools used in the clinical setting that promotes a transparent and clear decision-making process and improves the monitoring and evaluation of aid interventions. Finally, we recommend organizational measures to implement the framework effectively.
Conclusion: This paper uses a combination of public health/clinical ethics concepts and practices and applies them to the decision-making challenges encountered in relief operations in the humanitarian aid context.
People making decisions about interventions, actions and strategies for natural disasters, humanitarian crises and other major healthcare emergencies need access to reliable evidence to help ensure that the choices they make are likely to do more good than harm. However, there are many gaps in this evidence base in a wide range of areas. This paper reports a priority setting exercise that was coordinated by Evidence Aid to identify thirty priorities for up-to-date systematic reviews of the effects of interventions, actions and strategies on health outcomes, which would be particularly relevant to those involved in disaster risk reduction, planning response and recovery at an international level. It builds from an ongoing needs assessment that had identified a couple of hundred relevant research questions, which were grouped under 43 themes. Ten of these themes were prioritized by an online survey and the questions attached to these themes were then discussed at a face-to-face meeting, leading to the generation of a list of 30 top priority questions which is presented in this paper. We recognize that a different group of people might have come to different priorities but regard this as an important starting point, and the extensive efforts that were made to be inclusive in gathering opinions should help ensure their wide relevance.
Background: Hospital surge capacity (HSC) is dependent on the ability to increase or conserve resources. The hospital surge model put forth by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) estimates the resources needed by hospitals to treat casualties resulting from 13 national planning scenarios. However, emergency planners need to know which hospital resource are most critical in order to develop a more accurate plan for HSC in the event of a disaster.
Objective: To identify critical hospital resources required in four specific catastrophic scenarios; namely, pandemic influenza, radiation, explosive, and nerve gas.
Methods: We convened an expert consensus panel comprised of 23 participants representing health providers (i.e., nurses and physicians), administrators, emergency planners, and specialists. Four disaster scenarios were examined by the panel. Participants were divided into 4 groups of five or six members, each of which were assigned two of four scenarios. They were asked to consider 132 hospital patient care resources- extracted from the AHRQ’s hospital surge model- in order to identify the ones that would be critical in their opinion to patient care. The definition for a critical hospital resource was the following: absence of the resource is likely to have a major impact on patient outcomes, i.e., high likelihood of untoward event, possibly death. For items with any disagreement in ranking, we conducted a facilitated discussion (modified Delphi technique) until consensus was reached, which was defined as more than 50% agreement. Intraclass Correlation Coefficients (ICC) were calculated for each scenario, and across all scenarios as a measure of participant agreement on critical resources. For the critical resources common to all scenarios, Kruskal-Wallis test was performed to measure the distribution of scores across all scenarios.
Results: Of the 132 hospital resources, 25 were considered critical for all four scenarios by more than 50% of the participants. The number of hospital resources considered to be critical by consensus varied from one scenario to another; 58 for the pandemic influenza scenario, 51 for radiation exposure, 41 for explosives, and 35 for nerve gas scenario. Intravenous crystalloid solution was the only resource ranked by all participants as critical across all scenarios. The agreement in ranking was strong in nerve agent and pandemic influenza (ICC= 0.7 in both), and moderate in explosives (ICC= 0.6) and radiation (ICC= 0.5).
Conclusion: In four disaster scenarios, namely, radiation, pandemic influenza, explosives, and nerve gas scenarios; supply of as few as 25 common resources may be considered critical to hospital surge capacity. The absence of any these resources may compromise patient care. More studies are needed to identify critical hospital resources in other disaster scenarios.
Immediately following the Boston Marathon attacks, individuals near the scene posted a deluge of data to social media sites. Previous work has shown that these data can be leveraged to provide rapid insight during natural disasters, disease outbreaks and ongoing conflicts that can assist in the public health and medical response. Here, we examine and discuss the social media messages posted immediately after and around the Boston Marathon bombings, and find that specific keywords appear frequently prior to official public safety and news media reports. Individuals immediately adjacent to the explosions posted messages within minutes via Twitter which identify the location and specifics of events, demonstrating a role for social media in the early recognition and characterization of emergency events.
*Christopher Cassa and Rumi Chunara contributed equally to this work.
The advent of technologically-based approaches to disaster response training through Virtual Reality (VR) environments appears promising in its ability to bridge the gaps of other commonly established training formats. Specifically, the immersive and participatory nature of VR training offers a unique realistic quality that is not generally present in classroom-based or web-based training, yet retains considerable cost advantages over large-scale real-life exercises and other modalities and is gaining increasing acceptance. Currently, numerous government departments and agencies including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as academic institutions are exploring the unique advantages of VR-based training for disaster preparedness and response. Growing implementation of VR-based training for disaster preparedness and response, conducted either independently or combined with other training formats, is anticipated. This paper reviews several applications of VR-based training in the United States, and reveals advantages as well as potential drawbacks and challenges associated with the implementation of such training platform.
In understanding and trying to reduce the risk from disasters, connections are often articulated amongst poverty, vulnerability, risk, and disasters. These are welcome steps, but the approach taken in top-down international documents is rarely to articulate explicitly that vulnerability accrues from a wide variety of dynamic and long-term processes. Neglecting these processes—and failing to explore their links with poverty, risk, and disasters—tends to encourage disaster risk creation. This paper identifies seven examples of on-the-ground realities of long-term vulnerability within two clusters:
1 Environmental degradation.
4 Self-seeking public expenditure.
5 Denial of access to resources.
7 Siphoning of public money.
Examples are presented as vignettes, many contemporary and many rooted in historical contexts, to demonstrate the extent to which “vulnerability drivers” emanate from greed, the misuse of political and commercial power, mismanagement and incompetence amongst other behaviours. Moving forward to the tackling of disaster risk creation, instead of simply seeking disaster risk reduction, requires detailed investigation into these contemporary and historical realities of the causes of vulnerability. That would support the integration of disaster risk reduction within the many wider contexts that foment and perpetuate vulnerability.
The Great East Japan Earthquake and the subsequent tsunami that occurred in the afternoon of March 11, 2011, destroyed large parts of Japan’s Tohoku district. Owing to the unfavorable living environment, many diabetic patients in the refuges lost control of their blood glucose levels, and in addition, the high-calorie food provided led to severe postprandial hyperglycemia. We recommend that diabetic patients keep personal stocks of medical supplies and the medication that they require daily, as well as records of their medication. We also recommend the creation of basic guidelines to facilitate the practical prescription of medication for diabetic patients under various conditions that may arise in the aftermath of a natural disaster.
Since mid 2011 the tragedy unfolding across the Horn of Africa following prolonged drought in the region has been a major focus for international relief operations and emergency aid. However, the most effective strategies for mitigating the effects of the drought have not been given sufficient media coverage or discussed critically enough in the public arena. Instead, while important and necessary, the focus has largely remained on emotive pleas for increased aid. This unfortunately, detracts from a considered discourse on the most effective interventions in the current circumstances and reduces scrutiny on performance of the primary agencies and bodies responsible for coordinating the relief effort. The authors present a personal perspective having recently returned from the Dadaab refugee camps where much of the relief effort has focused.
Public health emergencies from natural disasters, infection, and man-made threats can present ethically or legally challenging questions about who will receive scarce resources. Federal and state governments have offered little guidance on how to prioritize distribution of limited resources. Several allocation proposals have appeared in the medical literature, but components of the proposed approaches violate federal antidiscrimination laws and ethical principles about fair treatment. Further planning efforts are needed to develop practical allocation guidelines that comport with antidiscrimination laws and the moral commitment to equal access reflected in those laws.