Disaster medicine has come to the forefront and has become the focus of interest not only in the medical community, but also in the eyes of the public. The 5th APCDM was convened in Vancouver, Canada, 27–30 September 2000. It brought together over 300 delegates from 32 countries to share their experiences and thoughts regarding disaster events and how to effectively manage them.
The conference was devoted to the task of establishing priorities and creating an Agenda for Action. From the discussions, key actions required were defined:
Communications: (1) Identify existing regional telehealth groups and gather lessons to be learned from them; (2) Form a telehealth advisory group to work with regional groups to compile telehealth initiatives, identify international protocols in telehealth already in existence, and solicit feedback before setting international standards; and (3) Increase corporate partnerships in the fields of telehealth and telecommunications, and invite corporations to send delegates to future APCDM meetings. This should be an initiative of the APCDM, the World Association of Disaster and Emergency Medicine (WADEM), or the European Society of Emergency Medicine.
Education and research: (1) Formalize education in disaster medicine and management. The World Health Organization and WADEM should take a leadership role; (2) WADEM is requested to hold a conference with a focus on qualitative research; (3) WHO is requested to continue the provision of international research teams, but to advocate for the development of national disaster research infrastructure; (4) Make research findings and reports available on web sites of such organizations as WHO and PAHO; (5) Develop the translation of research for community utilization. The WHO and PAHO are organizations that are requested to consider this action; and (6) WADEM/APCDM are requested to focus future conferences on applied research.
Information and data: (1) Create an “Information and Data Clearinghouse on Disaster Management” to collect, collate, and disseminate information; (2) Collect data using standardized tools, such as CAR or Hazmat indices; (3) Analyze incentives and disincentives for disaster readiness and establish mechanisms for addressing the obstacles to preparedness; and (4) WADEM is requested to develop a web site providing a resource list of interdisciplinary institutions and response activities, organized by country, topic, and research interests. Links to other pertinent web sites should be provided.
Interdisciplinary development: (1) Focus on the interdisciplinary nature of disaster response through more conferences encompassing grassroots efforts and through WADEM publications; (2)Develop and apply a standardized template of Needs Assessment for use by multidisciplinary teams. Team Needs Assessment is essential to determine the following: (a) Local response and international assistance required; (b) Appropriate command system; and (c) Psychosocial impact and support necessary.
Psychosocial aspects: (1) Incorporate relief for caregivers into action plans. This should include prime family members who also are caregivers; and (2) Implement measures that give survivors control over the recovery process.
Response management. (1) Define relationships and roles between governments, military and security personnel, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and civic groups. Use an international legal framework and liability to reinforce accountability of disaster responders; (2) Establish a more sophisticated use of the media during disasters; (3) Establish standards in key areas. WADEM is requested to write “White Papers” on standards for the following areas: (a) management, (b) health/public health, (c) education/training, (d) psychosocial, and (e) disaster plans; (4) Establish task forces to anticipate and resolve issues around evolving and emerging disasters (e.g., chemical and biological terrorism, landmines, emerging infectious diseases). WADEM was again identified as the vehicle for promoting this action.
The responsibility of the next meeting of the Asia-Pacific Conference on Disaster Medicine will be to measure progress made in these areas by assessing how well these collective decisions have been implemented.