Disaster Medicine is a relatively new discipline. Understanding of the current status of its science is needed in order to develop a roadmap for the direction and structure of future studies that will contribute to building the science of the health aspects of disasters (HADs). The objective of this study was to examine the existing, peer-reviewed literature relevant to the HADs to determine the status of the currently available literature underlying the science of the HADs. A total of 709 consecutive, peer-reviewed articles published from 2009-2014 in two disaster-health-related medical journals, Prehospital and Disaster Medicine (PDM) and Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness (DMPHP), were examined. Of these, 495 were disaster-related (PDM, 248; DMPHP, 247). Three major categories defined these disaster-related research articles: (1) Epidemiological studies comprised 50.5%; (2) Interventional, 20.3%; and (3) Syntheses, 26.9%. Interventional studies were sub-categorized into: (a) Relief Responses, 23.0%; (b) Recovery Responses, 2.0%; or (c) Risk-Reduction Interventions, 75.0%. Basically, the inventories were consistent within the two journals. Reported indicators of outcomes related to the responses were constrained to achievement indicators (numbers accomplished). Syntheses articles were sub-categorized into: (a) Literature Reviews, 17.6%; (b) Opinions, 25.2%; (c) Models, 24.4%; (d) Frameworks, 6.9%; (e) Guidelines, 13.0%; (f) Tools, 3.0%; (g) Protocols, Policies, or Criteria, 2.3%; or (h) Conference Summaries, 7.6%. Trend analyses indicated that the relative proportions of articles in each category and sub-category remained relatively constant over the five years. No randomized controlled trials (RTCs), non-randomized, comparative controlled trials (CCTs), or systematic reviews were published in these journals during the period examined. Each article also was examined qualitatively for objectives, study type, content, language, and structure. There was no common structure used for any category or sub-categories. In addition, the terminology used was inconsistent and often confusing. This categorization process should be applied to other peer-reviewed journals that publish research related to HADs. As evidenced in the current study, the evidence base for HADs is far from robust and is disorganized, making the development of scientific evidence on which to base best practices difficult. A stronger evidence base is needed to develop the science associated with the HADs. This will require a common structure and terminology to facilitate comparisons. Greater depth of reporting is needed in order to render the Epidemiological studies more useful in mitigating the negative health impacts of hazard-related events. Interventional studies must be structured and include outcomes, impacts, benefits, and costs with robust indicators. The outcomes and impacts of Risk-Reduction Interventions will require the evaluation of changes in the epidemiology documented in future events or exercises.
BirnbaumML, AdibhatlaS, DudekO, Ramsel-MillerJ. Categorization and Analysis of Disaster Health Publications: An Inventory. Prehosp Disaster Med. 2017;32(5):473–482.