Medical interventions following natural disasters: missing out on chronic medical needs.
Chan EYY., Sondorp E.
Although natural disasters may cause massive loss of human life and destruction of resources, they also present affected populations with a rare opportunity to access external resources. Nevertheless, many post-disaster medical relief intervention programmes only focus on the provision of acute medical services and the control of communicable diseases. Currently, no specific study has examined why chronic medical needs seem to be insufficiently addressed in disaster relief interventions. This paper review current knowledge about how natural disasters affect people with chronic medical needs, assess possible factors in disaster preparedness and response that pre-empt addressing chronic medical needs and suggest possible ways to overcome these barriers. Unawareness and insensitivity of relief workers towards chronic medical conditions, the practice of risk rather than need-based assessments, a focus on acute needs, the lack of reliable indicators and baseline information, and the multidimensional characteristics of chronic medical problems all pose serious challenges and probably deter the government and post-disaster relief agencies to deal with diseases of a chronic nature. It is important to increase the awareness and sensitivity of the stakeholders towards chronic medical problems during all phases of planning and intervention. Relevant assessment tools should be developed to rapidly identify chronic medical needs in resource deficit settings. Community partnership and collaboration that promote local ownership and technical transfer of chronic disease management skills will be essential for the sustainability of services beyond the disaster relief period. Potential programmes might include the technical training of local staff, establishment of essential drug and supply lists, and the provision of a range of medical services that may address chronic health needs.