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This chapter summarizes the current state of the literature relating to each of the disaster phases across a wide range of variables, including sociocultural factors and environment and community resources. Social networks among racial/ethnic minority cultures can be a significant protective factor against adverse mental health consequences, and the emphasis on social networks among many racial/ethnic minority cultures appears to also influence evacuation efforts. Differences in risk perception between minority and majority populations contribute to differences in disaster exposure. A variety of cultural beliefs appear to affect individuals in pre- and peridisaster phases. Several factors have an impact on marginalized populations' postdisaster mental health outcomes. Environmental and community resources suggest that limited or lack of resources appears to significantly impact disaster-response in marginalized populations. The chapter further discusses the implications for research, disaster-response efforts, and practice.
A broad range of health problems are related to disasters. Insight into these health problems is needed for targeted disaster management. Disaster health outcome assessment can provide insight into the health effects of disasters.
During the 15th World Congress on Disaster and Emergency Medicine in Amsterdam (2007), experts in the field of disaster epidemiology discussed important aspects of disaster health outcome assessment, such as: (1) what is meant by disaster health outcome assessment?; (2) why should one conduct a disaster health outcome assessment, and what are the objectives?, and (3) who benefits from the information obtained by a disaster health outcome assessment?
A disaster health outcome assessment can be defined as a systematic assessment of the current and potential health problems in a population affected by a disaster. Different methods can be used to examine these health problems such as: (1) rapid assessment of health needs; (2) (longitudinal) epidemiological studies using questionnaires; (3) continuous surveillance of health problems using existing registration systems; (4) assessment of the use and distribution of health services; and (5) research into the etiology of the health effects of disasters.
The public health impact of a disaster may not be immediately evident. Disaster health outcome assessment provides insight into the health related consequences of disasters. The information that is obtained by performing a disaster health outcome assessment can be used to initiate and adapt the provision of health care. Besides information for policy-makers, disaster health outcome assessments can contribute to the knowledge and evidence base of disaster health outcomes (scientific objective). Finally, disaster health outcome assessment might serve as a signal of recognition of the problems of the survivors.
Several stakeholders may benefit from the information obtained from a disaster health outcome assessment. Disaster decision-makers and the public health community benefit from performing a disaster health outcome assessment, since it provides information that is useful for the different aspects of disaster management. Also, by providing information about the nature, prevalence, and course of health problems, (mental) health care workers can anticipate the health needs and requirements in the affected population.
It is important to realize that the disaster is not over when the acute care has been provided. Instead, disasters will cause many other health problems and concerns such as infectious diseases and mental health problems. Disaster health outcome assessments provide insight into the public health impact of disasters.
The epidemiological evidence for a relationship between diet and indicators of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is evaluated. The review focuses on the intake of Na, n−3 fatty acids, and antioxidant vitamins as well as fruit and vegetables. Experimental studies suggest that a high-Na diet has a small adverse effect on airway reactivity in asthma patients. However, observational studies provide no clear evidence that high Na intake has adverse effects on airway reactivity or asthma symptoms in open populations. n−3 Polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are present in fish oils, are metabolized into less broncho-constricting and inflammatory mediators than n−6 polyunsaturated fatty acids. Studies in the general adult population suggest that a high fish intake has a beneficial effect on lung function, but the relationship with respiratory symptoms and clinically-manifest asthma or COPD is less evident. Also, experimental studies in asthma patients have not demonstrated an improvement in asthma severity after supplementation with fish oil. Several studies showed a beneficial association between fruit and vegetable intake and lung function, but the relationship with respiratory symptoms and the clinically-manifest disease was less convincing. A similar pattern was found for vitamin C in relation to indicators of asthma and COPD, but there are still conflicting results with respect to vitamin E and β-carotene. In conclusion, the epidemiological evidence for a beneficial effect on indicators of asthma and COPD of eating fish, fruit and vegetables is increasing. However, the effectiveness of dietary supplementation in open-population samples is often not demonstrated. Several unresolved questions are raised, which should be addressed in future studies on the relationship between diet and respiratory disease.
Background. Little is known about the correspondence between persistent self-reported disaster-related psychological problems and these problems reported by general practitioners (GPs). The aim of this study is to analyse this correspondence and to identify the factors associated with GPs' detection of persistent psychological problems.
Method. This study was conducted in a sample of 879 adult disaster-affected victims, taken from two longitudinal sources: the Enschede Firework Disaster Study and the GP-Monitor Study. Participants filled out a questionnaire 2–3 weeks and 18 months post-disaster and these data were combined with data from a GP-monitor collected up to 18 months post-disaster. The correspondence between persistent self-reported and GP-reported psychological problems was analysed with cross-tabulations. Logistic regression analyses were performed to identify variables which predicted GPs' detection of psychological problems.
Results. The correspondence rate among victims who visited their GP 18 months post-disaster was 60·4% for persistent intrusions and avoidance reactions, 72·6% for persistent general psychological distress and less than 20% for persistent depression and anxiety symptoms or sleep disturbances. Characteristics that predict GPs' identification of post-traumatic reactions or psychological distress were the level of self-reported post-traumatic symptoms/mental health, the number of contacts the victims had with their GP and the level of the victims' disaster-related experiences.
Conclusions. In general, there is a considerable correspondence between GP-reported and persistent self-reported incidences of post-traumatic stress and general psychological distress in disaster-affected victims. However, the correspondence declines in the case of more specific psychological symptoms.
There are few prospective studies on risk factors for health problems
after disasters in which actual pre-disaster health data are
To examine whether survivors' personal characteristics, and pre-disaster
psychological problems, and disaster-related variables, are related to
their post-disaster health.
Two studies were combined: a longitudinal survey using the electronic
medical records of survivors' general practitioners (GPs), from 1 year
before to 1 year after the disaster, and a survey in which questionnaires
were filled in by survivors, 3 weeks and 18 months after the disaster.
Data from both surveys and the electronic medical records were available
for 994 survivors.
After adjustment for demographic and disaster-related variables,
pre-existing psychological problems were significantly associated with
post-disaster self-reported health problems and post-disaster problems
presented to the GP. This association was found for both psychological
and physical post-disaster problems.
In trying to prevent long-term health consequences after disaster, early
attention to survivors with pre-existing psychological problems, and to
those survivors who are forced to relocate or are exposed to many
stressors during the disaster, appears appropriate.
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