Health Impacts After Disasters

From The Conversation: Scientist at work: Measuring public health impacts after disasters.

In Houston, recovery is under way across the city. Residents and volunteers are gutting and restoring flooded homes. Government agencies and nonprofit organizations are announcing cleanup programs and developing plans to distribute relief funds.

But many questions remain about impacts on public health. What contaminants did floodwaters leave behind? How many people are being exposed to mold – which can grow rapidly in damp, humid conditions – as they repair their homes? Will there be an increase in Zika, West Nile or other vector-borne diseases as mosquito populations recover? Or an uptick in reported cases of other illnesses?

Health Preparedness and Response Capabilities

2017-2022 Health Care Preparedness and Response Capabilities

The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has released the 2017-2022 Health Care Preparedness and Response Capabilities. According to the document, it “outlines the high-level objectives that the nation’s health care delivery system, including HCCs [health care coalitions] and individual health care organizations, should undertake to prepare for, respond to, and recover from emergencies.” In detail, the document breaks down four capabilities that, if followed, will allow the health care delivery system to be at full readiness for any emergency or disaster. Each capability is divided into Objectives, which in turn contain activities to complete the given objective.

Capability 1: Foundation for Health Care and Medical Readiness
Capability 2: Health Care and Medical Response Coordination
Capability 3: Continuity of Health Care Service Delivery
Capability 4: Medical Surge

Dementia as an Outcome of Displacement

As if we did not have enough to worry about in the post-disaster period, this new study adds a sad new dimension. See: Disasters may raise dementia risk for dislocated seniors: Study. Earthquakes, floods and other natural disasters may raise dementia risk for seniors forced to leave their homes, a new study suggests. Some details:

“In the aftermath of disasters, most people focus on mental health issues like PTSD,” said study author Hiroyuki Hikichi, a research fellow at Harvard University’s School of Public Health, in Boston.

“But our study suggests that cognitive decline is also an important issue,” Hikichi said in a university news release.

Relocation to a temporary shelter after a disaster may have the unintended effect of separating people not just from their homes but from their neighbors — and both may speed up mental decline among vulnerable people, Hikichi’s team noted.

Will Health Care Providers Soon Have to Be More Ready for Disasters?

From the NY Times: Can Health Care Providers Afford to Be Ready for Disaster? Some excerpts:

Despite repeated calls for change, however, and billions of dollars in disaster-related costs for health care providers, federal rules do not require that critical medical institutions make even minimal preparations for major emergencies, from hurricanes, earthquakes and tornadoes to bioterrorist attacks and infectious epidemics such as Ebola and Zika.

“We’ve had way too many circumstances where the results are catastrophic,” said Karl Schmitt, a former division chief for public health preparedness in Illinois and founder of the consulting firm bParati. “Preparedness doesn’t put heads in beds, and if it doesn’t put heads in beds, it doesn’t bring in revenue, so it’s not going to get the C.E.O.’s attention.”

That may soon change. Industry experts are awaiting release of a federal rule that would make emergency preparedness a condition for a wide range of health care institutions to participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. More than 68,000 providers would potentially be affected, including hospitals, kidney dialysis centers, psychiatric treatment facilities, home health agencies and organ transplant procurement organizations. Among other steps, providers would be required to conduct regular disaster drills, have plans for maintaining services during power failures and create systems to track and care for displaced patients.