Journal of Public Health

, Volume 14, Issue 5, pp 317–324 | Cite as

Public health and natural disasters: disaster preparedness and response in health systems

Original Article


The number of natural disasters and the severity of their impact have increased in recent decades. These developments highlight the need for improved preparedness and response in the health sector, inter alia, and the important role of public health in disaster management. The purpose of this paper, which is based on a literature review, is to provide background information about the general framework of disaster management and present the core concepts of disaster preparedness and response in health systems. Three different strategies were used to collect information for this article. First, information was collected from various international databases. Then, the virtual health library for disasters provided by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the WHO Health Action in Crisis (HAC) online sources were reviewed for relevant WHO and Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) books, working papers and reports. Finally, PubMed abstracts were searched with key words and phrases. For greater completeness, five disaster journals were hand searched. Additional sources such as text books, working papers, and articles were included, relying on the bibliography of the original study mentioned in the introduction to this paper. The studies reviewed indicated that fragmented and response-oriented approaches have begun to change world wide, at least in the literature. Despite the publication of increasing numbers of research projects in disaster issues, there are still gaps in sharing experience through scientific papers, such as systematic evaluation of activities in different phases of disaster situations.


Natural disasters Disaster management Public health Preparedness Health systems 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Swiss Tropical InstituteBaselSwitzerland

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