WHO Guidance on Research Methods for Health Emergency and Disaster Risk Management

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From 2018 to 2022

Implementing partners:

Editors: Ryoma Kayano (WHO WKC), Virginia Murray (Public Health England), Mike Clarke (Queens University Belfast), Emily Y.Y. Chan (The Chinese University of Hong Kong)

Associate editors: Tracey O’Sullivan (University of Ottawa), Jonathan Abrahams (WHO WHE)

Authors and peer reviewers: 164 authors from 30 countries, WHO Headquarters and Regional Offices (PAHO, AFRO, EMRO, EURO, SEARO, WPRO)

Location of research:


Total Budget:
US$ 200,000


Rationale and background

Health Emergency and Disaster Risk Management (Health EDRM) has recently emerged as a critical field for research, policy, and practice as a result of the growing recognition of health as a core dimension in disaster risk management. Global frameworks such as the WHO 13th General Programme of Work (GPW13), the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the International Health Regulations (IHR) have goals, targets, and indicators that monitor the health impact of disasters and emergencies and resilience in health systems and communities. Policies and actions guided by the best possible evidence are therefore critical for managing the health risks of emergencies and disasters. However, the evidence base in Health EDRM is very limited, reflecting the overall lack of research in this area. To address this gap, the WHO Thematic Platform for Health EDRM Research Network (Health EDRM RN) set out to develop a reference book about methods to guide Health-EDRM research.


Development process

The WHO Guidance on Research Methods for Health EDRM is the culmination of many face-to-face and virtual consultaitions among experts from WHO, Member States and partner organizations, who have contributed to the development and review of this document. The Guidance is derived from the existing scientific evidence in Health EDRM, and is delineated in 43 chapters that cover a wide range of research fields.  

In October 2018, the WHO Kobe Centre convened an expert meeting to identify key research needs for Health EDRM, bringing together leading experts from the Health EDRM RN and other key partners. “Research methods and ethics” was identified as one of the five research priorities (see Related publications 1 and 2), in recognition of the urgent need for a methods reference in conducting research to inform Health EDRM. The Guidance aims to fill this gap, notably through harmonizing terms for Health EDRM research; identifying mechanisms for ethical review processes; encouraging stronger community participation and stakeholder involvement in the research process; and identifying effective means of research to policy.

The Guidance was developed through an extensive process informed throughout by WHO's work with partners and countries, including WHO country and regional offices and more than 160 global experts who authored chapters and participated in peer-review between January 2019 and July 2020, led by the capable editorial team.  


Features of the book

The WHO Guidance on Research Methods for Health EDRM is a living reference document. The contents will be updated in response to the new and important scientific evidence. Given the current context of the COVID-19 pandemic, WHO plans to continually update the contents in 2021, and also include additional chapters on COVID-19 and other emerging topics. This Guidance offers practical advice about how to plan, conduct and report on a wide variety of quantitative and qualitative studies that can inform questions about policies and programmes for health-related disasters and emergencies across different settings and level of resources. Case studies of direct relevance to Health EDRM provide real-life examples of research methods and how they have modified policies.

The book is useful for health professionals in Health EDRM, academia, government agencies and ministries, international organizations, and community groups and civil society organizations.  

To address the need for stronger methods for Health EDRM research, the WHO Guidance on Research Methods for Health EDRM was officially web-published in October 2021. The guidance is comprehensive and entails the design, implementation and reporting of research during and after emergencies and disasters. It is a living document as the guidance will be regularly updated in response to the fast changing and evolving disaster risks and required knowledge.

The book has contributions from over 160 global experts from 30 countries, WHO headquarters and all Regional Offices. It contains 43 chapters covering a wide range of research fields. Case studies provide real-life examples of research methods and how they have modified policies. It will be useful for health professionals in Health EDRM, students and academics, government agencies and ministries, international organizations, and community and civil society organizations.

Contents: Downloads & Videos

WHO guidance on research methods for health emergency and disaster risk management. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2021. https://apps.who.int/iris/handle/10665/345591 Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO

Full Guidance: DOWNLOAD

Abbreviations & Glossary: DOWNLOAD


Chapters and Sections

1: Introduction  DOWNLOAD

1.1 Introduction by Jonathan Abrahams, Ryoma Kayano, Mike Clarke, Emily Y.Y. Chan and Virginia Murray.  DOWNLOAD VIDEO

1.2 Background: Health EDRM and research by Jonathan Abrahams, Ryoma Kayano, Mike Clarke, Emily Y.Y. Chan and Virginia Murray.    DOWNLOAD VIDEO

1.3 Historical developments in Health EDRM policy and research: the case study of Japan by Shinichi Egawa, Hiroyuki Sasaki, Anawat Suppasri, Hiroaki Tomita, Fumihiko Imamura, Fuji Nagami, Yasuhiro Kanatani, Akiko Eto, Yuichi Koido, Tatsuhiko Kubo, Hiroshi Kato, Yoshiharu Kim, Sonoe Mashino and Ryoma Kayano.   DOWNLOAD

2: Identifying and understanding the problem    DOWNLOAD

2.1 Using epidemiological principles to assess impacts of emergencies and disasters by Thomas D. Waite and Virginia Murray.    DOWNLOAD

2.2 Measuring the health impacts of disasters by Ronald Law.   DOWNLOAD

2.3 Disease burden: generating evidence, guiding policy by Shuhei Nomura and Aya Ishizuka.    DOWNLOAD

2.4 Databases and registers as tools for disaster epidemiology by Philip J. Schluter and Hyun M. Kim.    DOWNLOAD

2.5 Identifying and engaging high-risk groups in disaster research by Elizabeth A. Newnham, Janice Y. Ho and Emily Y.Y. Chan.    DOWNLOAD

2.6 The current state of the evidence: Mapping the evidence and systematic reviews by Irshad A. Shaikh, Philip Davies and Asta Man.    DOWNLOAD

2.7 Prioritization of research by Mona Nasser, Roderik Floris Viergever and John Martin.   DOWNLOAD

3: Determining the scope of your study    DOWNLOAD

3.1 Asset mapping to consider outcome measurement and stakeholder engagement by Mélissa Généreux, Shannon Tracey and Tracey O'Sullivan.    DOWNLOAD

3.2 Disaster risk factors - hazards, exposure and vulnerability by Dell D. Saulnier, Amod Mani Dixit, Ana Raquel Nunes and Virginia Murray.    DOWNLOAD

3.3 Designing a research intervention for Health EDRM by Carol K.P. Wong and Emily Y.Y. Chan.    DOWNLOAD

3.4 Ethics in research by Caroline Dubois, Katharine Wright and Michael Parker.    DOWNLOAD

3.5 Determining the research question by Mike Clarke and Yonggang Zhang.    DOWNLOAD VIDEO

3.6 Assessing the problems and developing a scoping review by Clara Affun-Adegbulu and Ali Ardalan.     DOWNLOAD

3.7 Research resources to support policy and new research by Claire Allen, Phil Davies and Ben Heaven Taylor.    DOWNLOAD VIDEO

Section 4: Study design   DOWNLOAD

4.1 Basic principles in designing studies to assess the effects of interventions by Mike Clarke and Dimuthu Rathnayake.    DOWNLOAD

4.2 Measuring the problem: Basic statistics by Christopher Garimoi Orach, Ngoy Nsenga, Olushayo Olu and Megan Harris.    DOWNLOAD

4.3 Cluster randomized trials by Matthew Coldiron and Rebecca F. Grais.    DOWNLOAD

4.4 Collection and management of good quality data by Fernando Gouvea-Reis, Marcelo Farah Dell'Aringa and Virginia Murray.    DOWNLOAD

4.5 Advanced statistical techniques by Marcella Vigneri and Howard White.    DOWNLOAD

4.6 Health-related risk modelling by Holly C.Y. Lam, Zhe Huang and Emily Y.Y. Chan.    DOWNLOAD

4.7 Evaluating economic impacts in health emergency and disaster risk management by Lorcan Clarke and Michael F. Drummond.    DOWNLOAD

4.8 Geographic information systems by Qian Ye and Shihui Guo.    DOWNLOAD

4.9 Real-time syndromic surveillance by Alex J. Elliot, Helen E. Hughes, Sally E. Harcourt, Roger A. Morbey, Sue Smith and Gillian E. Smith.    DOWNLOAD

4.10 Using logic models in research and evaluation of Health EDRM interventions by Dylan Kneale, Mukdarut Bangpan, James Thomas and Hugh Sharma Waddington.    DOWNLOAD

4.11 Researching communication and communicating research in Health EDRM by Alistair Humphrey, Lisa Robinson, Joseph Bonney and Sue Turner.    DOWNLOAD

4.12 Qualitative research by Christina J. Pickering, Suzanne Phibbs, Christine Kenney and Tracey O'Sullivan.    DOWNLOAD

4.13 Addressing complexity through mixed methods by Tracey O'Sullivan and Yasmin Khan.    DOWNLOAD

4.14 Natural experiments in a hazard context by Hyun M. Kim, Alex G. Stewart and Philip J. Schluter.    DOWNLOAD

4.15 Monitoring and evaluation by Heidi Hung, Gloria K.W. Chan and Emily Y.Y. Chan.    DOWNLOAD

5. Special topics to demonstrate research processes and benefits    DOWNLOAD

5.1 Disaster mental health research by Elizabeth A. Newnham, Lennart Reifels and Lisa Gibbs.    DOWNLOAD

5.2 Crowdsourcing to gather data by Kerri Wazny.    DOWNLOAD

5.3 Refugees and internally displaced populations by Ammar Saad, Kevin Pottie and Cheuk Pong Chiu.    DOWNLOAD

5.4  Indigenous peoples by Sandra Del Pino, Julie Davis, Alex Camacho and Enrique Perez-Gutierrez.    DOWNLOAD

6. How to become a researcher    DOWNLOAD

6.1 How to become a successful researcher by Paul Barach and André AJ Van Zundert.    DOWNLOAD

6.2 How to identify and access reports of existing research by Anne Brice and Caroline De Brún.    DOWNLOAD

6.3 How to write a successful grant application for a research study by May Pui Shan Yeung and Emily Y.Y. Chan.    DOWNLOAD

6.4 Getting ethical approval for your research by Siu Kai Lo, Holly C.Y. Lam and Emily Y.Y. Chan.    DOWNLOAD

6.5 Doing Health EDRM research in the field by Lucy Fagan, Katie Carmichael and Virginia Murray.    DOWNLOAD

6.6 How to write up your research by Roderico H. Ofrin, Anil K. Bhola and Nilesh Buddha.    DOWNLOAD

6.7 Doing research in Health EDRM by Juan Pablo Sarmiento.   DOWNLOAD


Editors & Contributors:  DOWNLOAD

Acknowledgements: DOWNLOAD


Related publications

1. Aung, M.N.; Murray, V.; Kayano, R. Research Methods and Ethics in Health Emergency and Disaster Risk Management: The Result of the Kobe Expert Meeting. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 201916, 770.

2. Kayano, R.; Chan, E.Y.; Murray, V.; Abrahams, J.; Barber, S.L. WHO Thematic Platform for Health Emergency and Disaster Risk Management Research Network (TPRN): Report of the Kobe Expert Meeting. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 201916, 1232.


Leadership is gratefully acknowledged from Sarah Louise Barber, Stella Chungong and Qudsia Huda at WHO headquarters. Ryoma Kayano and Jonathan Abrahams were instrumental as coordinators of the entire process and for finalizing the Guidance.

WHO thanks Public Health England (Lucy Fagan, Fernando Gouvea-Reis, Megan Harris, et.al.) and The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK; Collaborating Centre for Oxford University and CUHK for Disaster and Medical Humanitarian Response (CCOUC): Gloria K.W. Chan, Asta Man, Chi Shing Wong, et.al.) for their technical and administrative support for the development of the Guidance, as well as Kobe Group for its financial support.



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