Field work in disasters conducted by the centre
At the Centre for Research on Health Care in Disasters we firmly believe that in order to conduct the best research, provide the best education and conduct the best analysis for our partners it is important to never loose our connection to practical work in the field of disaster medicine. Consequently, our team members dedicate a significant amount of their time and skill to work in disaster operations around the world. Below you find a breakdown of some of the work we have been involved in.
The Centre for Research on Health Care in Disasters has, since the outbreak of war, been involved in the ongoing development of the situation in Ukraine, especially though the Centre for Health Crises at Karolinska Institutet, which is also headed by Johan von Schreeb. The centre has made itself and its expertise available to Swedish authorities and has often answered questions from the media on how the war impacts health care and what the medical situation is like.
Members of the team at the Centre for Research on Health Care in Disasters have also conducted mass-casulaty exercises in Moldova, on behalf of the WHO, which you can read more about here.
During March and Aoril 2022, Johan von Screeb assumed the role of WHO coordinator of international medical relief to Ukraine. Based in the country, he worked, among other things, with coordination of medical evacuation and possible deployment of Emergency Medical Teams (EMT).
Martina Gustavsson, nurse and PhD student at the Centre for Research on Health Care in Disasters, is currently working in Ukraine.
Following the Ebola outbreak in September 2022 Annelli Eriksson, research specialist at the centre, went to work in the affected area with MSF (Médecins Sans Frontières). Her role was to provide support when it comes to organisation and care. She recounts her experiences in two interviews published on KI's website.
Several members of the team affiliated with the Centre for Research on Health Care in Disasters, including the head of the centre professor Johan von Schreeb, have worked extensively in Lebanon over the last few years. In August 2020 Johan von Schreeb was asked by the WHO support their work in coordinating the international assistance in the country, following the explosions in the capital Beiruit. He ended up staying for the remainder of 2020 and also supported the expansion in intensive care facilities following the outbreak of COVID-19 and the creation of a national EMT-system in which private hospitals agreed to lend support to public ones when it came to intensive care (twinning projects). The work they did contributed to increasing the number of intensive care beds by over 300%. During 2021 Johan von Schreeb traveled repeatedly to Lebanon to continue the work with the WHO and the twinning projects.
Moreoever, Märit Halmin, who is affiliated with the Centre for Research on Health Care in Disasters has worked in Lebanon with MSF (Médecins Sans Frontières).
Following the hearth quake in 2010 and several other natural disasters, along with an unstable political situation and widespread violence, the need for public health care assistance in disasters has been particularly great in Haiti.
Martina Gustavsson, PhD student and researcher at the Centre for Research on Health Care in Disasters, draws extensively on her experiences working as a nurse in Haiti with MSF (Médecins Sans Frontières) in both her research and teaching.
During the COVID-19 outbreak in Ethiopia in 2020 Martina Gustavsson, PhD student and researcher at the Centre for Research on Health Care in Disasters, worked with the Emergency Medical Teams (EMTs) that have been established by the WHO. Much like with her experiences working as a nurse in Haiti, Martina draws on her work in Ethiopia in her research and teaching.
Several members of the team affiliated with the Centre for Research on Health Care in Disasters have worked in the DR Congo during the Ebola outbreaks of 2018 and 2019. Their experiences working in the area, and particularly of working with a highly infectious disease and their knowledge of the correct use of personal protective equipment (PPE), proved very useful when they were able to apply their expertise on these matters to the Swedish response to the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020 and assist in education and training of Swedish medical and care staff.
Yemen and Iraq
During the period 2016 to 2019 several members of the team at the Centre for Research on Health Care in Disasters conducted various types of field work in the conflict zones in Yemen and Iraq. The field work was conducted under the umbrella of both the WHO and MSF. Their work with victims of trauma in these areas formed much of the basis for the centre's research on gunshot and explosion wounds, epidemiology of conflict-related trauma, needs assessment and much more.
The COVID-19 pandemic
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Sweden in spring 2020 the researchers at the Centre for Research on Health Care in Disasters were able to use their experience working in disaster areas abroad to benefit Sweden's response to the pandemic. This included the development of online courses for health care professionals as well as offering expert guidance to national authorities such as the National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen), when it came to policy-making and issuing of guidelines.
The COVID-19 pandemic clearly showed that experiences gained abroad working in disaster situations can prove very beneficial for work conducted nationally in Sweden. The Centre for Research on Health Care in Disasters prides itself on the considerable experience our team has and aims to use it to develop disaster medicine, both in the Swedish and international context.