Health Emergencies and Natural Disaster Risk Management

Countries and their health and social protection systems are challenged by natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, tropical cyclones, and floods. In order to improve natural disaster risk management for preparedness, response and recovery, scientific evidence is critical. Research and knowledge management on health emergencies resulting from natural disaster contributes to public health responses at regional, national and local levels.  

 

What is our focus?

The WHO Kobe Centre currently focuses its public health research efforts on the following:  

  • Psycho-social impact on survivors and victims of natural disasters

Psycho-social impact on survivors and victims of natural disasters is an important focus of disaster risk management for health, especially in terms of long-term outcome of affected people. WKC, in collaboration with leading experts in disaster research, is identifying knowledge gaps and required actions for better risk management for mental health.

  • Innovative health data management after disasters

Innovative health data management after disasters is required for an optimal emergency response by local and national public health authorities. WKC is partnering with international researchers to evaluate the impact of a newly developed standardized data collection method after disaster for future policy applications. 

  • Integration of vulnerable populations into disaster risk management

Integration of vulnerable populations into disaster risk management is essential to achieve equity and resilience in the aftermath of natural disasters. WKC is collaborating with international researchers to develop effective and feasible disaster health risk management strategy for vulnerable populations including people with older age and disabilities.

 

Why is this important?

These research activities help countries and local health systems to strengthen their capacities in emergency risk management and will ultimately contribute to enhanced community resilience.

Development of Specific Care Strategies to Maintain and Recover Survivors’ Health after Disasters

The increasing scale and frequency of disasters has placed a priority on the mitigation of disaster risk and impact. Of special interest is disaster risk management for health, with attention towards vulnerable populations. Older adults are more likely to have physical, cognitive and mental vulnerabilities, such as multiple chronic diseases that can worsen during and after disasters and be complicated by mental health issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression. Healthcare and social service providers affected by disasters are also of concerns in terms of the prevention of PTSD and depression, as they are required to keep working under stressful environments.

Research objectives

The objectives of this research are:
1) To identify the fundamental needs and challenges of older adults who receive long-term care (LTC) services.
2) To conduct a therapeutic intervention programme among healthcare and social service providers affected by disasters, and to describe the feasibility, relevance, and acceptability of the programme and draw a hypothesis about the programme’s impact on the prevention of PTSD and depression.

Methods

1) Semi-structured interviews will be conducted with twenty disaster survivors over 65 who receive long-term care (LTC) services.
2) A therapeutic programme to prevent PTSD and depression will be evaluated among 200 healthcare and social service providers directly affected by the Kumamoto Earthquake 2016 with a comparison group of the same size.

Expected outcomes

Based on this research, we expect that the research will:
1) Provide fundamental information and data about the situation and needs of older adults who require health support after disasters.
2) Provide fundamental information on the feasibility, relevance and acceptability of a therapeutic programme to prevent PTSD and depression among healthcare and social service providers in disaster areas.
3) Contribute to policy suggestions for better disaster risk management for affected populations, and to strengthen scientific evidence in Disaster Risk Management for Health.
4) Contribute to the implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.

Team members

Lead Institution: University of Hyogo
Aiko Yamamoto (PI), Professor, Research Institute of Nursing Care for People and Community
Sonoe Mashino, Professor & Executive Director, Research Institute of Nursing Care for People and Community
Rie Chiba, Associate Professor, Research Institute of Nursing Care for People and Community
Kikuko Mori, Professor, College of Nursing Art & Science
Miho Takami, Professor, College of Nursing Art & Science

Shiori Usami, Professor, Graduate School of Health Sciences and Health Sciences, Department of Nursing. Kumamoto University
Noriaki Takahashi, Musashigaoka Clinic
Ryoma Kayano, Technical Officer, WHO Kobe Centre

 

Long-term Psychosocial Impact of Natural Disasters on Survivors in Japan

Over the past few decades, the frequency and severity of natural disasters have increased. Growing population, unplanned urbanization, ageing and related demographic trends have contributed to this change. The 3rd UN World Conference for Disaster Risk Reduction, Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2025 (SFDRR), highlights the fundamental role of health in disaster risk management (DRM) and emphasizes the need for scientific evidence in this area. In practice, the majority of attention to DRM has focused on preparedness and response. However, the long-term psychosocial impact and needs of survivors during the recovery phase have not been well documented nor have there been many studies about possible interventions.

Research Background

In cooperation with NCNP Japan (the institute leading this research), Hyogo Institute for Traumatic Stress and the WHO Kobe Centre Working Group for this project (including 21 Japanese experts) will conduct a comprehensive review of DRM in Japan with a focus on psychosocial interventions.

Research Outline

  1. Develop a review paper on policy and social innovations for disaster mental health in Japan based on gaps and needs for important natural
    disasters.
  2. Convene an expert consultation meeting to identify fundamental gaps in knowledge and required actions for better long-term mental health
    management for disaster survivors.
  3. Conduct a systematic literature review to understand global research gaps.
  4. Conduct a nationwide comprehensive survey of researchers, local/national government officers and NGO and community workers to
    complement and strengthen the key findings of the expert consultation.
  5. Integrate the results of the survey into the results of the consultation meeting and literature review to develop evidence-based policy
    suggestions.​

Goals

The project will

  • Identify fundamental gaps in knowledge and required actions in long-term psychosocial management for disaster survivors.
  • Contribute to evidence-based policy options for better long-term psychosocial management after disasters.
  • Provide scientific evidence for health emergency and disaster risk management by sharing lessons and evidence from Japan.