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On 08 October 2005, an earthquake measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale, struck Pakistan's autonomous state of Kashmir and part of Indian-administrated Kashmir. The official death toll in Pakistan was 79,000, and nearly 1,400 in Kashmir. This study reports the findings of a three-week health needs assessment to understand the needs of rural, older people post-earthquake. This study was conducted in February 2006 in the Neelum Valley of Kashmir, Pakistan, four months after the earthquake.
During emergency relief, the vulnerability and health needs of older people in rural settings are different than are those in of urban areas.
A comparative, descriptive study was performed using health information to compare the differences between rural and urban health needs and the utilization of services of older people after the earthquake. Semi-structured interviews were conducted to collect information regarding demographic background, medical and drug history, self-reported health status, healthcare access and utilization, and social/financial concerns. Clinical records were reviewed and physical indicators for older patients also were collected on-site.
The health profile, access to health care, service availability, and prevalence of non-communicable diseases differ between urban and rural settings. The greatest gap in health services at all sites was that non-communicable disease management was inadequate during non-acute, post-earthquake medical care. Health service utilization varied by gender, as in conservative rural areas, older, traditional women were less likely to receive medical services while older men were less likely to access psychological services in all sites.
This is the first study to compare the post-earthquake healthcare needs of older people in urban and rural settings. Findings highlight specific health needs and issues related to long-term, chronic disease management. Given the global pattern of aging of the population, it is important to strengthen the capacity to respond appropriately to medical disasters, which includes preparedness for treating the health needs of older people.
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