Project III - Health effects of sudden onset disasters

The number of Sudden Onset Disasters (SOD) is increasing and a rising number of people are globally affected. Effects are both direct and indirect. Preliminary results from two systematic reviews compiled by KcKM on direct health effects of different natural disasters reveal significant research gaps in the area. The lack of systematic data on the varying burden of disease in different post disaster time phases is problem for targeted health interventions. More efforts are needed to increase research in the area of how disasters affect health is needed.

While health effects of disasters is a priority for KcKM, we have, despite field presence and working collaboration with field agencies such as MSF, ICRC and WHO, experienced it to be difficult to identify population based data in the area. The challenging contexts of disasters obviously limit the opportunity for data collection. Instead we have applied an opportunistic approach to gain more systematic knowledge. We combine skills in qualitative methods, systematic reviews with opportunities for field based data collection. New approaches are needed to better guide disaster response; operational research is an emerging discipline out of which we are influenced. It aims at answering questions with relevance for the field in resource scarce context.

The overarching theme for the coming years within this project develops both knowledge and experience on health and mapping of health effects of disasters and how to assess this topic. In addition to our planned activities, we aim to be opportunistic in our approach to data collection. As disaster medicine specialist we have to be ready to develop studies on short notice. When a disaster strikes we have to maintain capacities for both direct disaster relief in addition to engage in studies and data collection when the opportunity arise. Our overall aim is to improve knowledge of the health needs after different types of disasters, as well as an increased understanding of
the long-term effects of disaster on health and health systems.

Objectives 2016

  1. To map the health needs of different vulnerable groups after disasters, both natural and man-made