Health Studies - Preparedness and Response for Public Health Disasters

Health Studies (HS) provides expertise and leadership in epidemiology to local, state, federal and international partners to help them prepare for and respond to natural and human-induced disasters. To do this, HS conducts surveillance, rapid needs assessments, epidemiology studies, and provides training in disaster epidemiology to public health professionals.

NEW! HS’s Spanish-language version of the Death Scene Investigation after Natural Disasters or other Weather-Related Events is now available pdf icon[PDF – 807 KB]. The publication features checklists, forms, and other resources for death scene investigators to use when collecting data at death scenes during and after a natural disaster or weather-related event. Visit our website to find disaster-specific forms.

HS’s English-language version of the Death Scene Investigation after Natural Disasters or other Weather-Related Events is available here pdf icon[PDF – 1 MB] and the toolkit’s refillable forms are here. Also, see the recently published article pdf icon[PDF – 2 MB] reviewing current death scene data collection tools that helped inform the new toolkit pdf icon[PDF – 2 MB].

Disaster Epidemiology is defined as the use of epidemiology to assess the short- and long-term adverse health effects of disasters and to predict consequences of future disasters. It brings together various topic areas of epidemiology including acute and communicable disease, environmental health, occupational health, chronic disease, injury, mental health, and behavioral health. Disaster epidemiology provides situational awareness; that is, it provides information that helps us understand what the needs are, plan the response, and gather the appropriate resources.

From the standpoint of public health, a disaster is defined on the basis of its consequences on health and health services. A disaster is a serious disruption of the functioning of society, causing widespread human, material or environmental losses, that exceeds the local capacity to respond, and calls for external assistance. Natural and man-made disasters can occur without warning; preventing them from resulting in major public health emergencies requires careful planning. Health Studies provides disaster preparedness and response technical assistance, tools, and training.

Health Studies (HS) conducts planned research and provides emergency epidemiologic response to assess the acute and chronic health effects from exposure to severe weather such as extreme heat and cold, not directly related to climate change. HS preparedness activities for heat and cold weather events include having subject matter experts that provide scientific expertise on heat and cold concerns and inquires from CDC, external partners, and the media.

Page last reviewed: December 15, 2017