UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
DISASTER PREPAREDNESS AND RESPONSE ACTIVITIES CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION
Eric K. Noji, M.D. Chief, Disaster Assessment & Epidemiology Section Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Atlanta, Georgia
The U.S. federal agency, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), based in Atlanta, Georgia, has major responsibilities for preparing for and responding to public health emergencies such as disasters, as well as for conducting investigations into the health effects and medical consequences of disasters.
The CDC has had a rich and diversified history of responding to natural and technological disasters, both domestically and internationally. Through the involvement of CDC medical staff in the massive international relief operation mounted during the civil war in Nigeria in the late 1960s, techniques were developed for rapidly assessing people's nutritional status and for conducting surveys to identify populations in need of medical assistance. In the 1970s and 1980s, CDC conducted investigations following earthquakes in Peru, Nicaragua, and Guatemala; a cyclone in the Bay of Bengal; a chemical release in Bhopal, India; floods in Bangladesh; and the volcanic eruptions of Nevado del Ruiz in Columbia and Mt. St. Helens in Washington State. Some CDC scientists have examined patterns of morbidity and mortality in refugee and displaced persons camps in Iraq, Somalia, Ethiopia, the Sudan, and Southeast Asia.
Most recently, CDC conducted health investigations following earthquakes in California, the Philippines and Egypt, Hurricanes Hugo, Andrew and Iniki, typhoons in the Western Pacific, tornadoes in Illinois and Kansas, a catastrophic cyclone and storm surge in Bangladesh, recent volcanic eruptions in the Philippines, Chile, and Nicaragua, a severe drought in southern Africa and serious flooding in China, and the American midwest. A major aim of researchers conducting these investigations was to assess risk of death and injury and to develop strategies for preventing or mitigating the impact of disasters. For example, because of CDC findings on tornadoes, the preventive guidelines issued to citizens living in tornado-prone communities were changed.
Other CDC responsibilities in the area of emergency
preparedness and response include the following:
- To provide technical and epidemiologic assistance to state and local governments before and after disasters. For example, CDC played a major role in developing contingency plans for a catastrophic earthquake in California prior to the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake and is currently working with the Central U.S. Earthquake Consortium (CUSEC) to enhance emergency preparedness and response procedures for a catastrophic earthquake in the New Madrid seismic zone.
- To document and quantify the public health consequences of different types of natural and technological disasters.
- To identify (through risk factor analysis) potential strategies with which to prevent or mitigate the consequences of disasters.
- To develop disaster prevention programs and contingency plans.
- To develop and maintain national systems for acute environmental hazard surveillance. For example, CDC and the American Red Cross have established a surveillance system for tracking all deaths and serious injuries related to natural disasters in the United States.
- To rapidly assess the medical and health care needs of disaster victims in the immediate postdisaster period.
- To assess the health risks associated with different types of natural and technological disasters.
- To provide epidemiologic and scientific support services to other agencies involved in disaster planning and response, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), and the American Red Cross. As a World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Disaster Preparedness and Response, CDC can also provide similar assistance to foreign governments and intergovernmental organizations such as the UN Department of Humanitarian Affairs (DHA), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), Medecins Sans Frontieres and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
For further information about the CDC's disaster preparedness and response activities, contact:
Eric K. Noji, M.D., M.P.H., Chief
Disaster Assessment and Epidemiology Section
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
4770 Buford Highway, NE
Atlanta, GA. 30341
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