Health systems in urban disasters

Technical report


Publication details

Number of pages: 87
Publication date: 2013
Languages: English



Emergencies and disasters affect localities, cities, countries and regions. In many instances urban areas and megacities are directly affected and are involved in response efforts. Decentralized cities have sufficient resources and have developed strong efforts and are enhancing their capacity in health care including health emergency management even way ahead of national systems. Health emergency management in urban areas is unique because of the complexity of political and socio-economic structures. It is essential that health systems in urban areas have strong capacity to prepare for and respond to emergencies and disasters. This project aims to identify health and health systems impacts of urban disasters, the efforts done and gaps in response, recovery, preparedness and disaster risk reduction (DRR). The results, discussions, generalizations and recommendations will guide health emergency managers in developing actions that are systems-oriented and contributing to sustainable development.

Health emergency managers must understand the temporal aspect of emergencies and through a systems lens taking into consideration the wider political and socioeconomic environment where the emergency took place. They must have a strong public health and management capacity. A systems approach is essential in the assessment of vulnerabilities, capacities and needs, rapid assessment during the acute response phase, monitoring, documentation and evaluation. In all phases of the emergency, service delivery should focus on Primary Health Care, safe hospitals (resilient and functional health facilities) and environmental health. The recovery phase serves as an opportunity window for advocacy, planning, policy-making and change. Health information management in emergencies must be strengthened. Its key areas include but are not limited to disease surveillance and early warning system, monitoring of needs, resources and activities, patient records, coordination between entities, research on health emergency management (specific to context) and the application of geographic information systems. Health personnel in charge of health information must be trained.