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After more than three decades of preoccupation with wars and internal political conflicts, the humanitarian community has the opportunity to re-evaluate what humanitarian crises will dominate both policy and practice in the future. In reality, these crises are already active and some are over the tipping point of recovery. These crises share the common thread of being major public health emergencies which, with a preponderance of excess or indirect mortality and morbidity dominating the consequences, requires new approaches, including unprecedented improvements and alterations in education, training, research, strategic planning, and policy and treaty agendas. Unfortunately, political solutions offered up to date are nation-state centric and miss opportunities to provide what must be global solutions. Public health, redefined as the infra-structure and systems necessary to allow communities, urban settings, and nation-states to provide physical and social protections to their populations has become an essential element of all disciplines from medicine, engineering, law, social sciences, and economics. Public health, which must be recognized as a strategic and security issue should take precedence over politics at every level, not be driven by political motives, and be globally monitored.
The devastating Haiti earthquake rightly resulted in an outpouring of international aid. Relief teams can be of tremendous value during disasters due to natural hazards. Although nobly motivated to help, all emergency interventions have unintended consequences. In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, many selfless individuals committed to help, but was this really all in the name of reaching out a helping hand? This case report illustrates that medical disaster tourism is alive and well.
In order to prepare the healthcare system and healthcare personnel to meet the health needs of populations affected by disasters, educational programs have been developed by numerous academic institutions, hospitals, professional organizations, governments, and non-government organizations. Lacking standards for best practices as a foundation, many organizations and institutions have developed “core competencies” that they consider essential knowledge and skills for disaster healthcare personnel.
The Nursing Section of the World Association for Disaster and Emergency Medicine (WADEM) considered the possibility of endorsing an existing set of competencies that could be used to prepare nurses universally to participate in disaster health activities. This study was undertaken for the purpose of reviewing published disaster health competencies to determine commonalities and universal applicability for disaster preparedness.
In 2007, a review of the electronic literature databases was conducted using the major keywords: disaster response competencies; disaster preparedness competencies; emergency response competencies; disaster planning competencies; emergency planning competencies; public health emergency preparedness competencies; disaster nursing competencies; and disaster nursing education competencies. A manual search of references and selected literature from public and private sources also was conducted. Inclusion criteria included: English language; competencies listed or specifically referred to; competencies relevant to disaster, mass-casualty incident (MCI), or public health emergency; and competencies relevant to healthcare.
Eighty-six articles were identified; 20 articles failed to meet the initial inclusion criteria; 27 articles did not meet the additional criteria, leaving 39 articles for analysis. Twenty-eight articles described competencies targeted to a specific profession/discipline, while 10 articles described competencies targeted to a defined role or function during a disaster. Four of the articles described specific competencies according to skill level, rather than to a specific role or function. One article defined competencies according to specific roles as well as proficiency levels. Two articles categorized disaster nursing competencies according to the phases of the disaster management continuum. Fourteen articles described specified competencies as “core” competencies for various target groups, while one article described “cross-cutting” competencies applicable to all healthcare workers.
Hundreds of competencies for disaster healthcare personnel have been developed and endorsed by governmental and professional organizations and societies. Imprecise and inconsistent terminology and structure are evident throughout the reviewed competency sets. Universal acceptance and application of these competencies are lacking and none have been validated. Further efforts must be directed to developing a framework and standardized terminology for the articulation of competency sets for disaster health professionals that can by accepted and adapted universally.
July 2007 brought unprecedented levels of flooding to the United Kingdom. Health and financial implications were vast and still are emerging. Hydrological disasters will increase in frequency. Therefore, individual preparedness is paramount, as it may mitigate some of the devastating impacts of flooding. Literature on individual preparedness for flooding is scarce, so it is key that current levels of awareness, information gathering, and protective behaviors are investigated. It also is not clear whether being in a high-risk area or having recent exposure to flooding are motivational factors for preparedness.
The objectives of this study were to: (1) ascertain whether prior experience with flooding is a strong motivational factor for preparedness for future flooding episodes; and (2) assess preparedness in populations at high risk for flooding.
A prospective questionnaire survey was sent to individuals living in two towns in the United Kingdom, Monmouth and Tewkesbury. Both towns are deemed to be at significant risk for flooding, and Tewkesbury was severely affected by the July 2007 flooding disaster. Data were obtained from these two populations and analyzed.
A total of 125 responses (of 200) were returned, and demographic data indicated no major differences between the two populations. The number of protective behaviors was higher from participants from Tewksbury (flood risk and exposure; p = 0.004). Participants from Tewkesbury were more likely to be aware of living in a flood-risk area and of the emergency systems present in the area, and feel prepared for future episodes of major flooding (p = 0.03, p = 0.005).
Awareness of living in a flood risk-area increased the likelihood of being knowledgeable about emergency systems and adopting protective behaviors (p = 0.0053, p = 0.043). However, feeling prepared for future episodes of flooding was not associated with a strong increase in knowledge gained to prepare for flooding or having an increased number of protective behaviors.
Awareness of being at-risk for flooding is vital for self-protective behavior. Both awareness of risk and recent exposure are motivational for flood preparedness. Recent exposure to flooding increases awareness, but it is unknown how long this effect will last. Recent exposure increases the preparedness of individuals for major flooding 18 months after major flooding and, if it continues, will help mitigate the devastating health, financial, and social effects of major flooding.
There has been much federal and local health planning for an influenza pandemic in the United States, but little is known about the ability of the clinical community to deal quickly and effectively with a potentially overwhelming surge of pandemic influenza patients.
The attitudes and expectations of emergency physicians, emergency nurses, hospital nursing supervisors, hospital administrators, and infection control personnel concerning clinical care in a pandemic were assessed.
Key informant structured interviews of 46 respondents from 34 randomly selected emergency receiving hospitals in Los Angeles County were conducted using an Institutional Review Board-approved protocol. The interview asked about supplies/resources, triage, quality of care, and decision-making. At the conclusion of each interview, the informant was asked to provide the contact information for at least two others within their respective professional group. Interviews were transcribed and coded for key themes using qualitative analytical software.
There was little salience that an influx of variably ill patients with influenza would force stratified healthcare decision-making. There also was a general lack of preparation to address the ethics and practices of triaging patients in the clinical setting of a pandemic.
Guidelines must be developed in concert with public health, medical society, and legislative authorities to help clinicians define, adopt, and communicate to the public those practice standards that will be followed in a mass population, infectious disease emergency.
The 12 January 2010 earthquake that struck Port-au-Prince, Haiti caused >200,000 deaths, thousands of injuries requiring immediate surgical interventions, and 1.5 million internally displaced survivors. The earthquake destroyed or disabled most medical facilities in the city, seriously hampering the ability to deliver immediate life- and limb-saving surgical care. A Project Medishare/University of Miami Miller School of Medicine trauma team deployed to Haiti from Miami within 24 hours of the earthquake. The team began work at a pre-existing tent facility in the United Nations (UN) compound based at the airport, where they encountered 225 critically injured patients. However, non-sterile conditions, no means to administer oxygen, the lack of surgical equipment and supplies, and no anesthetics precluded the immediate delivery of general anesthesia. Despite these limitations, resuscitative care was administered, and during the first 72 hours following the event, some amputations were performed with local anesthesia. Because of these austere conditions, an anesthesiologist, experienced and equipped to administer regional block anesthesia, was dispatched three days later to perform anesthesia for limb amputations, debridements, and wound care using single shot block anesthesia until a better equipped tent facility was established. After four weeks, the relief effort evolved into a 250-bed, multi-specialty trauma/intensive care center staffed with >200 medical, nursing, and administrative staff. Within that timeframe, the facility and its staff completed 1,000 surgeries, including spine and pediatric neurological procedures, without major complications. This experience suggests that when local emergency medical resources are completely destroyed or seriously disabled, a surgical team staffed and equipped to provide regional nerve block anesthesia and acute pain management can be dispatched rapidly to serve as a bridge to more advanced field surgical and intensive care, which takes longer to deploy and set up.
Recent events have heightened awareness of disaster health issues and the need to prepare the health workforce to plan for and respond to major incidents. This has been reinforced at an international level by the World Association for Disaster and Emergency Medicine, which has proposed an international educational framework.
The aim of this paper is to outline the development of a national educational framework for disaster health in Australia.
The framework was developed on the basis of the literature and the previous experience of members of a National Collaborative for Disaster Health Education and Research. The Collaborative was brought together in a series of workshops and teleconferences, utilizing a modified Delphi technique to finalize the content at each level of the framework and to assign a value to the inclusion of that content at the various levels.
The framework identifies seven educational levels along with educational outcomes for each level. The framework also identifies the recommended contents at each level and assigns a rating of depth for each component. The framework is not intended as a detailed curriculum, but rather as a guide for educationalists to develop specific programs at each level.
This educational framework will provide an infrastructure around which future educational programs in Disaster Health in Australia may be designed and delivered. It will permit improved articulation for students between the various levels and greater consistency between programs so that operational responders may have a consistent language and operational approach to the management of major events.
The earthquake that struck the central coast of Peru on 15 August 2007 was a disaster that mobilized international humanitarian assistance to address the needs of the affected people in the regions of Huancavelica, Ica, and Lima. It also was an opportunity to prove the effectiveness of regulations and procedures to facilitate the entry and distribution of donations and medical goods during a major emergency. In the first month after the earthquake, the national government approved new regulations that aimed to reduce waiting time while reducing the number of requisites required by customs. More than 5,500 tons of international donations arrived in Peru in a short period of time. Many donated medicines arrived unsorted, without an international non-proprietary (generic) name on the label, and some medicines did not have any relationship with the diseases that would appear in the aftermath of the event.