Emergencies and disasters are beyond control and when it happens it causes a huge impact on health of population. There are several re-emerging and novel infectious diseases that cause mortality and morbidity across the world. The forest fires, floods are some of the major causes that are responsible for evacuations and deaths. These calamities cause serious damage to infrastructure including health which changes the prospects of public health preparedness during emergencies.
Disaster and emergencies impose a threat on health of population. Upstream readiness is very important in the field of public health but the challenge that is faced by public health professionals is the definition of preparedness. In 2013, Lac Megantic train derailment caused 47 deaths and it also caused damage to the infrastructure. The impact on people was not only physical but it landed adverse mental health on public. In 2019, Alberta wildfires in Canada caused burning of nearly 700000 acres of land and nearly 11,000 people had to evacuate. The incidences of such wildfires are increasing due to global warming and the damage caused by the smoke on health of people is a public health emergency.
What measures and capacity can be considered appropriate for preparedness during disaster and emergencies? The existing frameworks that are present are not relevant to understand the complexity of health system and there is a knowledge gap regarding context of disaster and emergencies. It is important to define the prospects of a public health system and how it can be managed effectively. The preparedness measures must be such that they can also be utilized for day to day operations of public health work.
Public health preparedness for disasters and emergencies should be innovative and the strategies should be based on evidences so as to reduce the risk of failure and mismanagement. The clinical, social and epidemiological research demand public health emergency management to be studied as a different discipline as it requires strategies, solutions and policies that can help the public health professionals to achieve a functional system that remains to be enabled during emergencies (Kim-Farley, 2017).
Hypothesis development is important to test different strategies that can be used during disasters and emergencies by public health responders or workers. The hypothesis is derived from the type of disaster or emergency that is prevalent and the problems that are faced by emergency workers or public health care workers in delivering care services to people. The hypothesis provides a statistical aspect to the study that gives meaningful insight to the research project. A hypothesis if formulated inappropriately can cause damage to the research initiative and may also cause damage to the evidences that can be used effectively for public health preparedness during emergency (Rastegarfar et. Al, 2019).
There are several significances to public health preparedness and some of them could also be helpful in expanding daily operations of public health workers. The preparedness helps in preparing the infrastructure for financial loss and it can be done by maintenance of an emergency fund or maintenance of cash reserve that can be helpful in times of emergency. The purchasing and maintaining cache of medical equipment and medicines can help in easy deployment during a pandemic, natural disaster or explosions. This helps the people suffering from chronic illness to have their prescriptions continued in such times. The preparedness also calls for maintenance of a disease surveillance system that uses electronic health record to identify the risk of a possible outbreak.
There are assumptions that such preparedness can affect the day to day operations of public health services due to fund blockage as maintenance of an inventory for disaster can be costly. The investments for disaster preparedness can be made such that the resources and supplies can be used for daily operations. This would ensure that the maintenance of emergency funds do not affect the funding of daily operations. It also ensures that the supplies are updated and the inventory is regularly inspected for any case of unannounced emergency.
The officials have to make decision regarding preparedness and fund keeping and this can only be done by investments. The events that have high likelihood do not cost a lot for preparedness but events like a bio-weapon or a chemical explosion can cause a much higher cost for preparedness. The natural disaster events are more likely to be acknowledged because of their frequency so the policy makers might overlook other emergencies while making decisions on preparedness.
Disaster and emergencies impose a risk on public health and infrastructure and for that public health institutions need preparedness. Funding is the most important prospect of preparedness and therefore evidence-based strategies should be used to decide the investments and emergency funds. Such strategies also tend to lower the risk of failure and thus leading to effective public health preparedness.
Kim-Farley, R. (2017). Public Health Disasters: Be Prepared. American Journal Of Public Health, 107(S2), S120-S121. doi: 10.2105/ajph.2017.304039
Rastegarfar, B., Ardalan, A., Nejat, S., Keshtkar, A., & Moradian, M. J. (2019). A Productive Proposed Search Syntax for Health Disaster Preparedness Research. Bulletin of emergency and trauma, 7(2), 93–98. https://doi.org/10.29252/beat-070201.