Evidence for Global and Disaster Health

Evidence for Global and Disaster Health

What does this mean to you?

If you’re reading this, you’re probably some sort of information professional, so the evidence bit is probably pretty straight forward – research literature which tests the effectiveness of interventions, be they diagnostic tests, or treatments, or predictions of prognosis.

The disaster health is probably pretty obvious too, but what about global health.

The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction identifies 12 macro level types of threat:

·         Financial shock

·         Trade disputes

·         Geopolitical conflict

·         Political violence

·         Natural catastrophe

·         Climatic catastrophe

·      Environmental catastrophe

·      Technological catastrophe

·      Disease outbreak

·      Humanitarian crisis

·      Externality

·      Other shock


Yes, externality (the impact of a meteor hit, or a sun spot) might seem a little bit Hollywood disaster movie, but did you include the consequences of financial shocks, or trade? Yet the rise of poverty related illness because of austerity in the UK will attest to the relevance of this as a category.

I attended the inaugural meeting of the IFLA special interest group on Global and Disaster Health. It’s the culmination of tireless work by Shane Godbolt, Anne Brice, and many others. That it happened at all is only the start, and yet it’s very much a sign of how much work has gone one, and continues to go on in this area.


Aim of the E4GDH SIG

To explore, map and strengthen the potential for librarians and information specialists, and their services, to play an enhanced, pivotal role in the collation, organisation, assessment and deployment of information concerning global and disaster health including disaster preparedness and risk reduction.

All the slides will be going up on the E4GDH site shortly, but you may also want to have a quick browse through the tweets: #e4gdh

I knew that as information professionals there was the potential in us all to contribute through the voluntary work I do with Evidence Aid (read more about that here), but the variety of opportunities was a surprise as exemplified by Bethany McGowan. She talked about Using GIS Data and Mapping Parties to Expedite Disaster Relief Response to Vulnerable Places: just as you might contribute to Wikipedia to improve the knowledge of a particular topic, you can make maps better and thereby aid relief efforts. Amazing! Read more here and here

“Humanitarian mapping activities combine open data and crowdsourcing to support disaster relief response and humanitarian aid to vulnerable populations.”

Merlita M. Opeña talked about her work: Philippine Research on Disaster Risk Reduction in Health: Mapping a Research Roadmap and Creating a Framework for Information Sharing Nationally and Globally. She’s working to help improve health resiliency – one of the measures of how bad a disaster is, is how long it takes the community to return to “normal”, all the more reason to help them be better prepared to withstand a disaster. But this needs research, and evidence, and this is where Merlita and her colleagues come in.

I discovered that the language of disaster health is still evolving so research about research is vital to better clarify and unify everyone’s understanding: Diana Wong’s work in Disaster Metrics: A Comprehensive Framework for Disaster Evaluation Typologies achieves exactly that. “This is a framework outlining the different types of evaluation types that can be used in the disaster setting. It will help provide consistency and structure in disaster evaluations and improve the science of disaster health.” Read more here.

The role of librarians in the development of policy is crucial in so many ways, but the work of Prof Daisy Selematsela and Blessing Mawire in South African exemplified this: “The transitionary role of Research and University Librarians/Knowledge Specialists in developing countries in facilitating transformation for sustainable development.” Their work is influencing the way in which the South African government is working to achieve UN Sustainable Development Goals, particularly #3 and #4.

When disaster strikes closer to home – as Feili Tu-Keefner experienced with 2 hurricanes ravaging South Carolina in almost as many years – it’s crucial that public librarians understand how best they can support their communities in times of crisis. Feili has investigated “Lessons Learned After a Disaster: Investigations of Public Librarians’ Health Information Services to the Community and Community Members’ Information Needs Following a Catastrophic Flood”.

I learned so much from Caroline de Brun and Blessing Mawire in their practical session raising awareness of sources of high quality information – their padlet of resources will be part of any future teaching and searching I do. Particular favourites were medbox, and 3ie and openwho, but I’ll also be reading more about the PARIHs framework. All details at:  www.padlet.com/caroline_debrun/e4gdh


Now I’m starting to believe Prof Virginia Murray, when she called libraries “a secondary emergency service”, and I am proud to have been part of the event, and to be involved in the work.




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