INTRODUCTION In January 2011 landslides and floods followed heavy rain in the Mountainous Region of Rio de Janeiro State (“Região Serrana”), in southeastern Brazil. These events led to the largest disaster registered in Brazilian recent history. Few studies addressed the impacts of this disaster on public health, and we found none addressing the impact on mental health. This study reviewed the consequences of the 2011 disaster in the “Região Serrana”, by comparing the demand for public mental health assistance data from time periods before and after the even METHODS We performed an ecologic study, analysing the aggregate data from “Região Serrana” during the period two years before and after the disaster, exporting data from the Brazilian open access public health database. The primary outcome was defined as Mental Health Care Demand, and for that we calculated the number of mental health care visits per month, the proportion of visits due to mental health care and the monthly absolute number of mental health care visits per CAPS – “Centro de Atenção Psicossocial” (Psychosocial Care Centre). For secondary outcomes we evaluated the total number of deaths by any reason, and the total number of hospitalizations. The other health administrative regions of Rio de Janeiro state were used as control group. RESULTS We observed that there was an important increase in the rate of visits due to mental health in the six months after the landslides, from 13,875 to 17,690, reaching its maximum one year after the event totalizing 21,980 visits (Dec 2011). It was also observed that the proportion of visits due to mental health disorders increased after the event in the “Região Serrana”, as well as the number of mental health care visits per CAPS. DISCUSSION In conclusion, we observed that the 2011 Landslides in “Região Serrana” led to a sustained higher burden to public mental health care. There was an increase in the demand for mental health visits, and the ratio of visits per CAPS was higher during most part of the studied period after the event, even with the region having more CAPS than before.
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.
Background. Mass ground movements (commonly referred to as ‘landslides’) are common natural hazards that can have significant economic, social and health impacts. They occur as single events, or as clusters, and are often part of ‘disaster’ chains, occurring secondary to, or acting as the precursor of other disaster events. Whilst there is a large body of literature on the engineering and geological aspects of landslides, the mortality and morbidity caused by landslides is less well documented. As far as we are aware, this is the first systematic review to examine the health impacts of landslides.
Methods. The MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, SCOPUS databases and the Cochrane library were systematically searched to identify articles which considered the health impacts of landslides. Case studies, case series, primary research and systematic reviews were included. News reports, editorials and non-systematic reviews were excluded. Only articles in English were considered. The references of retrieved papers were searched to identify additional articles.
Findings. 913 abstracts were reviewed and 143 full text articles selected for review. A total of 27 papers reporting research studies were included in the review (25 from initial search, 1 from review of references and 1 from personal correspondence). We found a limited number of studies on the physical health consequences of landslides. Only one study provided detail of the causes of mortality and morbidity in relation a landslide event. Landslides cause significant mental health impacts, in particular the prevalence of PTSD may be higher after landslides than other types of disaster, though these studies tend to be older with only 3 papers published in the last 5 years, with 2 being published 20 years ago, and diagnostic criteria have changed since they were produced.
Discussion. We were disappointed at the small number of relevant studies, and the generally poor documentation of the health impacts of landslides. Mental health impacts were better documented, though some of the studies are now quite old. Further research on the health impacts of landslides needs to be undertaken to support those responding to landslide disasters and to aid disaster risk mitigation advocacy.
AIM: The aim of this systematic literature review was to identify the extent and implications of medication loss and the burden of prescription refill on medical relief teams following extreme weather events and other natural hazards.
METHOD: The search strategy followed the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA). Key health journal databases (Medline, Embase, PsycINFO, Maternity and Infant Care, and Health Management Information Consortium (HMIC)) were searched via the OvidSP search engine. Search terms were identified by consulting MeSH terms. The inclusion criteria comprised articles published from January 2003 to August 2013, written in English and containing an abstract. The exclusion criteria included abstracts for conferences or dissertations, book chapters and articles written in a language other than English. A total of 70 articles which fulfilled the inclusion criteria were included in this systematic review.
RESULTS: All relevant information was collated regarding medication loss, prescription loss and refills, and medical aids loss which indicated a significant burden on the medical relief teams. Data also showed the difficulty in filling prescriptions due to lack of information from the evacuees. People with chronic conditions are most at risk when their medication is not available. This systematic review also showed that medical aids such as eye glasses, hearing aids as well as dental treatment are a high necessity among evacuees.
DISCUSSION: This systematic review revealed that a considerable number of patients lose their medication during evacuation, many lose essential medical aids such as insulin pens and many do not bring prescriptions with them when evacuated.. Since medication loss is partly a responsibility of evacuees, understanding the impact of medication loss may lead to raising awareness and better preparations among the patients and health care professionals. People who are not prepared could have worse outcomes and many risk dying when their medication is not available.
While many of the acute risks posed by flooding and other disasters are well characterised, the burden of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning and the wide range of ways in which this avoidable poisoning can occur around flooding episodes is poorly understood, particularly in Europe. The risk to health from CO may continue over extended periods of time after flooding and different stages of disaster impact and recovery are associated with different hazards.
A review of the literature was undertaken to describe the changing risk of CO poisoning throughout flooding/disaster situations. The key objectives were to identify published reports of flood-related carbon monoxide incidents that have resulted in a public health impact and to categorise these according to Noji’s Framework of Disaster Phases (Noji 1997); to summarise and review carbon monoxide incidents in Europe associated with flooding in order to understand the burden of CO poisoning associated with flooding and power outages; and to summarise those strategies in Europe which aim to prevent CO poisoning that have been published and/or evaluated.
The review identified 23 papers which met its criteria. The team also reviewed and discussed relevant government and non-government guidance documents. This paper presents a summary of the outcomes and recommendations from this review of the literature.
Papers describing poisonings can be considered in terms of the appliance/source of CO or the circumstances leading to poisoning.The specific circumstances identified which lead to CO poisoning during flooding and other disasters vary according to disaster phase. Three key situations were identified in which flooding can lead to CO poisoning; pre-disaster, emergency/recovery phase and post-recovery/delayed phase. These circumstances are described in detail with case studies.
This classification of situations is important as different public health messages are more appropriate at different phases of a disaster. The burden of disease from poisoning caused by each potential source and at each phase of a disaster is different. CO poisoning is not compulsory and deaths associated with a flood but delayed for a period of months, for example due to a damaged boiler, may never be attributed to the flood as surveillance often ends once the floodwaters recede. The problem of under–reporting is crucial to our understanding of flooding-related poisoning.
The indoor use of portable generators, cooking and heating appliances designed for use outdoors during periods of loss of mains power or gas is a particular problem. In the recovery phase, equipment for pumping, dehumidifying and drying out of properties poses a new risk. In the long term, mortality and morbidity associated with the renewed use of boilers which may have suffered covert damage in flooding is recognised but very difficult to quantify.
Papers evaluating interventions were not found and where literature exists on prevention of CO poisoning in disaster situations, it is from the USA.
This paper for the first time describes the different risks of CO poisoning posed by the different phases of a disaster. There is a specific need to recognise that any room in a building can harbour a CO emitting appliance in flooding; wood burners and rarely used chimney flues may become particularly problematic following a flood.
1) Public health workers and policy makers should consider establishing toolkits using the CDC toolkit approach; the acceptability of any intervention must be evaluated further to guide informed policy.
2) CO poisoning must form part of syndromic and event based surveillance systems for flooding and should be included in measures of the health impact of flooding.
3) CO monitors in the domestic environment should be sited not only in proximity to known CO emitters but also in locations where mobile or short term CO emitting appliances may be placed, including woodburners and infrequently used fireplaces.
Extreme events (e.g. flooding) threaten critical infrastructure including power supplies. Many interlinked systems in the modern world depend on a reliable power supply to function effectively. The health sector is no exception, but the impact of power outages on health is poorly understood. Greater understanding is essential so that adverse health impacts can be prevented and/or mitigated.
We searched Medline, CINAHL and Scopus for papers about the health impacts of power outages during extreme events published in 2011-2012. A thematic analysis was undertaken on the extracted information. The Public Health England Extreme Events Bulletins between 01/01/2013 – 31/03/2013 were used to identify extreme events that led to power outages during this three-month period.
We identified 20 relevant articles. Power outages were found to impact health at many levels within diverse settings. Recurrent themes included the difficulties of accessing healthcare, maintaining frontline services and the challenges of community healthcare. We identified 52 power outages in 19 countries that were the direct consequence of extreme events during the first three months of 2013.
To our knowledge, this is the first review of the health impacts of power outages. We found the current evidence and knowledge base to be poor. With scientific consensus predicting an increase in the frequency and magnitude of extreme events due to climate change, the gaps in knowledge need to be addressed in order to mitigate the impact of power outages on global health.
Climate change projections indicate that droughts will become more intense in the 21 century in some areas of the world. The El Niño Southern Oscillation is associated with drought in some countries, and forecasts can provide advance warning of the increased risk of adverse climate conditions. The most recent available data from EMDAT estimates that over 50 million people globally were affected by drought in 2011. Documentation of the health effects of drought is difficult, given the complexity in assigning a beginning/end and because effects tend to accumulate over time. Most health impacts are indirect because of its link to other mediating circumstances like loss of livelihoods.
The following databases were searched: MEDLINE; CINAHL; Embase; PsychINFO, Cochrane Collection. Key references from extracted papers were hand-searched, and advice from experts was sought for further sources of literature. Inclusion criteria for papers summarised in tables include: explicit link made between drought as exposure and human health outcomes; all study designs/methods; all countries/contexts; any year of publication. Exclusion criteria include: drought meaning shortage unrelated to climate; papers not published in English; studies on dry/arid climates unless drought was noted as an abnormal climatological event. No formal quality evaluation was used on papers meeting inclusion criteria.
87 papers meeting the inclusion criteria are summarised in tables. Additionally, 59 papers not strictly meeting the inclusion criteria are used as supporting text in relevant parts of the results section. Main categories of findings include: nutrition-related effects (including general malnutrition and mortality, micronutrient malnutrition, and anti-nutrient consumption); water-related disease (including E coli, cholera and algal bloom); airborne and dust-related disease (including silo gas exposure and coccidioidomycosis); vector borne disease (including malaria, dengue and West Nile Virus); mental health effects (including distress and other emotional consequences); and other health effects (including wildfire, effects of migration, and damage to infrastructure).
The probability of drought-related health impacts varies widely and largely depends upon drought severity, baseline population vulnerability, existing health and sanitation infrastructure, and available resources with which to mitigate impacts as they occur. The socio-economic environment in which drought occurs influences the resilience of the affected population. Forecasting can be used to provide advance warning of the increased risk of adverse climate conditions and can support the disaster risk reduction process. Despite the complexities involved in documentation, research should continue and results should be shared widely in an effort to strengthen drought preparedness and response activities.
To provide an overview of the health needs following the Great East Japan Earthquake Disaster and the lessons identified.
The relevant of peer review and grey literature articles in English and Japanese, and books in Japanese, published from March 2011 to September 2012 were searched. Medline, Embase, PsycINFO, and HMIC were searched for journal articles in English, CiNii for those in Japanese, and Amazon.co.jp. for books. Descriptions of the health needs at the time of the disaster were identified using search terms and relevant articles were reviewed.
85 English articles, 246 Japanese articles and 13 books were identified, the majority of which were experience/activity reports. Regarding health care needs, chronic conditions such as hypertension and diabetes were reported to be the greatest burden from the early stages of the disaster. Loss of medication and medical records appeared to worsen the situation. Many sub-acute symptoms were attributed to the contaminated sludge of the tsunamis and the poor living environment at the evacuation centres. Particularly vulnerable groups were identified as the elderly, those with mental health illnesses and the disabled. Although the response of the rescue activities was prompt, it sometimes failed to meet the on-site needs due to the lack of communication and coordination.
The lessons identified from this mega-disaster highlighted the specific health needs of the vulnerable populations, particularly the elderly and those with non-communicable diseases. Further research is needed so that the lessons identified can be incorporated into future contingency plans in Japan and elsewhere.
Wildfires are common globally. Although there has been considerable work done on the health effects of wildfires in countries such as the USA where they occur frequently there has been relatively little work to investigate health effects in the United Kingdom. Climate change may increase the risk of increasing wildfire frequency, therefore there is an urgent need to further understand the health effects and public awareness of wildfires. This study was designed to review current evidence about the health effects of wildfires from the UK standpoint.
A comprehensive literature review of international evidence regarding wildfire related health effects was conducted in January 2012. Further information was gathered from authors’ focus groups.
A review of the published evidence shows that human health can be severely affected by wildfires. Certain populations are particularly vulnerable. Wood smoke has high levels of particulate matter and toxins. Respiratory morbidity predominates, but cardiovascular, ophthalmic and psychiatric problems can also result. In addition severe burns resulting from direct contact with the fire require care in special units and carry a risk of multi – organ complications. The wider health implications from spreading air, water and land pollution are of concern. Access to affected areas and communication with populations living within them is crucial in mitigating risk.
This study has identified factors that may reduce public health risk from wildfires. However more research is needed to evaluate longer term health effects from wildfires. An understanding of such factors is vital to ensure preparedness within health care services for such events.
Extreme events and disasters, such as earthquakes and floods, cause distress and are associated with some people developing mental disorders. Primary stressors inherent in many disasters can include injuries sustained or watching someone die. The literature recognises the distress which primary stressors cause and their association with mental disorders. Secondary stressors such as a lack of financial assistance, the gruelling process of submitting an insurance claim, parents’ worries about their children, and continued lack of infrastructure can manifest their effects shortly after a disaster and persist for extended periods of time. Secondary stressors, and their roles in affecting people’s longer-term mental health, should not be overlooked. We draw attention in this review to the nature of secondary stressors that are commonly identified in the literature, assess how they are measured, and develop a typology of these stressors that often affect people after extreme events.
We searched for relevant papers from 2010 and 2011 using MEDLINE®, Embase and PsycINFO®. We selected primary research papers that evaluated the associations between secondary stressors and distress or mental disorders following extreme events, and were published in English. We extracted information on which secondary stressors were assessed, and used thematic analysis to group the secondary stressors into a typology.
Thirty-two relevant articles published in 2010 and 2011 were identified. Many secondary stressors were poorly defined and difficult to differentiate from primary stressors or other life events. We identified 11 categories of secondary stressors, though some extend over more than one category. The categories include: economic stressors such as problems with compensation, recovery of and rebuilding homes; loss of physical possessions and resources; health-related stressors; stress relating to education and schooling; stress arising from media reporting; family and social stressors; stress arising from loss of leisure and recreation; and stress related to changes in people’s views of the world or themselves. Limitations in this review include its focus on studies published in 2010 and 2011, which may have led to some secondary stressors being excluded. Assumptions have been made about whether certain items are secondary stressors, if unclear definitions made it difficult to differentiate them from primary stressors.
This is the first review, to our knowledge, that has developed a typology of secondary stressors that occur following extreme events. We discuss the differing natures of these stressors and the criteria that should be used to differentiate primary and secondary stressors. Some secondary stressors, for example, are entities in themselves, while others are persisting primary stressors that exert their effects through failure of societal responses to disasters to mitigate their immediate impacts. Future research should aim to define secondary stressors and investigate the interactions between stressors. This is essential if we are to identify which secondary stressors are amenable to interventions which might reduce their impacts on the psychosocial resilience and mental health of people who are affected by disasters.
Corresponding Author: Dr Sarah Lock, Extreme Events and Health Protection, London, 151 Buckingham Palace Road, London, SW1W 9SZ. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org