Introduction: Over the last quarter of a century the frequency of natural disasters and the burden of non-communicable diseases (NCD) across the globe have been increasing. For individuals susceptible to, or chronically experiencing, NCDs this has become a significant risk. Disasters jeopardize access to essential treatment, care, equipment, water and food, which can result in an exacerbation of existing conditions or even preventable death. Consequently, there is a need to expand the public health focus of disaster management to include NCDs. To provide a platform for this to occur, this article presents the results from a systematic review that identifies and describes the impact of cyclone, flood and storm related disasters on those susceptible to, or experiencing, NCDs. The NCDs researched were: cardiovascular diseases; cancers; chronic respiratory diseases; and diabetes.
Methods: Four electronic publication databases were searched with a date limit of 31 December 2014. The data was analyzed through an aggregation of individual papers to create an overall data description. The data was then grouped by disease to describe the impact of a disaster on treatment management, exacerbation, and health care of people with NCDs. The PRISMA checklist was used to guide presentation of the research.
Results: The review identified 48 relevant articles. All studies represented developed country data. Disasters interrupt treatment management and overall care for people with NCDs, which results in an increased risk of exacerbation of their illness or even death. The interruption may be caused by a range of factors, such as damaged transport routes, reduced health services, loss of power and evacuations. The health impact varied according to the NCD. For people with chronic respiratory diseases, a disaster increases the risk of acute exacerbation. Meanwhile, for people with cancer, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes there is an increased risk of their illness exacerbating, which can result in death.
Conclusion: Cyclone, flood and storm related disasters impact on treatment management and care for people with NCDs. Possible consequences include exacerbation of illness, complications or even death. There is now a need to expand traditional disaster approaches by public health to incorporate NCDs. This must be guided by the major NCDs identified by the World Health Organization and implemented in-line with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction: 2015-2030. This includes understanding all the factors that influence both direct and indirect (preventable) morbidity and mortality related to NCDs during and after disasters. Once achieved, disaster planners and public health professionals will be in a position to develop and implement effective mitigation strategies.