Via The Lancet, a letter: Typhoon Haiyan and beyond.
The recent Super Typhoon Haiyan, the third category 5 typhoon to strike the Philippines since 2010, tore through Tacloban in the province of Leyte and affected about 13 million people; only 4 weeks after Super Typhoon Usagi affected more than 2·7 million people in southern China. With increasing numbers of disasters related to climate change (from 99 in 1980 to 269 in 2011), Asia is likely to be hit by more typhoons with stronger intensity in the coming decades.
The 2013 World Disaster Report identified access to information and technology as major challenges for community disaster preparedness, survival, and recovery.
Media coverage of typhoons and their aftermath often focuses on the immediate ravages, injuries, deaths, and economic loss; however, typhoons and hurricanes bring along less visible long-term consequences for health.
After major hurricanes and floods, water-borne diseases, such as leptospirosis, can arise from contamination of water and food crops; lack of shelter and population displacement to crowded conditions often leads to a high incidence of chronic respiratory diseases; standing water can serve as a hotbed for mosquito breeding and hence vector-borne illnesses; injuries increase the risks of tetanus; and damaged wires can cause electric shock and fire.
While these immediate effects might be recorded and reported, well-organised longitudinal data and comprehensive surveillance information are often limited in low-income settings, and, as a result, information about the long-term physical and mental health consequences of floods for the population is not available to guide evidence-based disaster emergency preparedness and response planning.
The Hyogo Framework for Action identified capacity building and development of disaster health-risk-resilience policies by national governments for disaster-prone communities as key priorities for action. To do so, the research agenda at the community level should identify predictors of and barriers to the ability of households and communities to respond to disaster warnings, and also assess the effectiveness with which information about health responses after a disaster is delivered.
Research also needs to explore the best way to organise surveillance data and systems to reduce post-disaster health risks.
How to mobilise community volunteers to engage in evidence-based post-disaster health actions remains a major operational challenge for governments, front-line workers, and academics, and gaps in technical knowledge must be tackled.