Social Scientific Insights on Preparedness for Public Health Emergencies

Trainor, Joseph
Aguirre, Benigno E.
Barnshaw, John
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Disaster Research Center
It is common for governmental agencies to plan for emergencies. It’s human nature that we want to reduce our exposure to the dangers around us. While risk reduction happens at many levels (e.g. individual, family, organizational, community, and state) government agencies play a key role in ensuring the safety and security of the citizenry. The Delaware Health and Social Services agency (DHSS) is no different. With a mission to: "improve the quality of life for Delaware's citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations," disaster response neatly falls into the agencies prevue. Equally important, the agency strives to be a self-correcting organization working to retool and keep pace with changing client needs and a changing service delivery environment. Such a vision requires informed decision-making. As a result the Division of Public Health’s Disaster preparedness section contracted the Disaster Research Center at the University of Delaware to produce a document that provides sound knowledge from evidence based assessments of planning and response to public health emergencies. The goal of this effort is to maximize the ability of DE officials to prevent, avoid, respond, and recover from major public health emergencies through a review of the evidence based research related to this topic. This report will cover a number of issues, but it focuses most directly on social science insights that can be of value to planning and response processes. Pursuing to contract specifications, this report consists of three parts. The first part presents some of the most important research themes in disaster science. The second part presents an annotated bibliography of public health and disaster. The third part provides answers to a series of questions Division of Public officials asked DRC to answer. The first two sections are based on research findings. In the final section we provide our expert opinions based on scientific knowledge, but not in every instance drawn exclusively from research findings.
Public Health , Sociology , Emergency Preparedness , Research