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Disaster Epidemiology

Specialist Areas

Modern medicine and healthcare practice apply robust scientific knowledge to deliver care to communities affected by disasters and emergencies. However, as the health threat from catastrophes and natural hazard disasters continue to rapidly change for communities in all countries, new approaches and applications from the field of epidemiology are essential to mitigate the escalating health risk. Health systems now require novel approaches and methods to assess population health risks from natural hazards and to test emergency response protocols.

Successfully improving health service functions of disaster health risk assessment, treatment and care, and health protection will be dependent on the speed and application of innovative approaches. This includes utilising the health risk monitoring data for emergency health planning and disaster responses and designing new modes of analysing disaster risk and improving quality dimensions of care. The challenge for health systems universally is to grasp the opportunity to innovate and test new approaches that enhance disaster response effectiveness now and in the future.

GDHC actively advocates and supports international cooperation on four specialist areas of disaster epidemiology, which include the following.

  • Development of hazard-specific health impact models to transform disaster planning and response to future-forward health risk management strategies.
  • Development of standardized exposure monitoring methods and patient to correlate patient exposure and health impact.
  • Develop context-specific natural hazard epidemiological profiles, measuring environmental exposure variables in affected populations, and methods to stratify vulnerable populations according to risk.
  • Develop applications from epidemiological hazard and vulnerability profiles to enable health services to prepare and manage new service-demand dynamics and the effects from compounding public health emergency/disaster scenarios.

Health Emergency and Disaster Risk Management Research (Health EDRM)

The WHO Thematic Platform for Health Emergency and Disaster Risk Management Research Group was established following the 2016 workshop recommendations of international scholars working in fields of health and disaster risk reduction. The intention of creating a thematic platform was to guide future research, promote collaboration and improve the quality of scientific evidence to inform health policy and practice for managing risks from public health emergencies and disaster events.1

Following an extensive process of consultation, collaboration, and review, the WHO published a comprehensive resource to support and guide methods for research on health emergencies and disasters. The 2021 publication provides a practical guide about conducting research of disaster events including key areas of identifying populations at risk, standardized needs assessments, standardization of evaluation methodologies and reporting systems for countries, communities and specific events.2

GDHC acknowledges and supports the vital role played by the WHO in disaster risk reduction and openly encourages the use of methods and methodologies discussed in the Health EDRM Research guidance book.