Print Page   |   Contact Us   |   Sign In   |   Join CSTE
Environmental Health: Disaster Epidemiology

Public health continues to play a crucial role in preparing for and responding to disasters of all types. Understanding the human health impact of disasters is critical to developing evidence-based public health interventions to mitigate the consequences of future disasters.

The Disaster Epidemiology Subcommittee brings together epidemiologists from across subject disciplines to share best practices and collaborate on epidemiologic approaches towards improving all-hazard disaster preparedness and response capacities at local, state, Tribal, regional, and national levels. It is critical to use epidemiologic principles, emergency preparedness planning, and a coordinated disaster response for describing the distribution of injuries, illnesses, and disabilities; rapidly detecting outbreaks or clusters; identifying and implementing timely interventions; evaluating the impacts of public health efforts; and improving public health preparedness planning.

Subcommittee activities fall within the following areas:
  • Defining disaster epidemiology
  • Identifying training needs and developing training opportunities
  • Developing a repository of tools and methods for responding to and evaluating the impacts of disasters
  • Convening the annual disaster epidemiology workshop
Disaster Epidemiology Subcommittee Work Groups
There are currently three disaster epidemiology work groups that CSTE members can join:
  • Disaster Epidemiology Toolkit Work Group -- focuses on making existing disaster epidemiology tools and methodological resources readily available to those in state and local health departments who need them.
  • Disaster Mental Health Surveillance Work Group -- works to enhance the use of disaster epidemiology tools and better integrate mental health surveillance into disaster epidemiology planning and response.
  • Shelter Surveillance Work Group -- identifies tools and methods that currently exist for shelter surveillance during disasters.
Additionally, members of the committee are creating a Disaster Epidemiology and Public Health Preparedness capabilities crosswalk to provide resources to health departments on disaster epidemiology tools that are available to help meet the capabilities.
Disaster epidemiology defined (source – CDC):
Disaster epidemiology is the use of traditional epidemiologic tools and methods to assess the short- and long-term adverse health effects of disasters and emergencies, and to predict consequences of future disasters. Typically, the main objectives of disaster epidemiology are to:
  • provide timely and accurate information for decision-makers;
  • prevent or reduce the number of deaths, illnesses, and injuries caused by disasters; and
  • improve prevention and mitigation strategies for future disasters and emergencies by gaining information for response preparation.
Resources:
CSTE Disaster Epidemiology Tool Repository
The CSTE Disaster Epidemiology (DE) subcommittee has identified the need to share information among state, local, and federal epidemiologists on disaster related methods, tools, and lessons learned. To meet this need, the DE subcommittee has created a repository of DE tools and related guidance on their uses.
CDC Disaster Epidemiology Community of Practice (DECoP):
The DECoP, formally known as the Disaster Surveillance Workgroup (DSWG), is a collaborative group of CDC, other federal and state partners established to provide technical resources to partners; expand use of disaster surveillance tools; and evaluate tools and guidelines to improve situational awareness and response activities. They have launched a community of practice SharePoint site on disaster epidemiology and you are invited to participate in this online community. The purpose of the DECoP SharePoint is to utilize tools made available through the site and collaborate with state and federal partners by communicating information to others during an actual disaster event. This site is for everything disaster epidemiology-related. If you would like to join the DECoP SharePoint site please request access by emailing your full name, address, email address, and contact phone number to Amy Schnall at GHU5@cdc.gov.
Annual National Disaster Epidemiology Workshop:

Since 2010, the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE) has hosted an annual workshop on disaster epidemiology that brings together partners in public health from academic institutions, national non-profit organizations, governmental organizations at the national, tribal, state and local levels to learn about recent advancements in disaster epidemiology and explore opportunities for new partnerships to improve the public response to emergencies.

CSTE will convene the sixth annual National Disaster Epidemiology Workshop on May 13-14, 2015 at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel Atlanta-Buckhead Hotel in Atlanta, GA. The theme of the workshop is “Stronger Together: Building Partnerships and Moving Disaster Epidemiology Forward.” The topics highlighted at this year's meeting will include Ebola, surveillance, disaster research, recent events, and disaster epidemiology partnerships. The goals of this workshop are to 1) provide relevant and timely learning opportunities for epidemiologists, public health emergency preparedness coordinators, emergency managers and academia in disaster epidemiology, and 2) provide opportunities for attendees to network and build partnerships with epidemiologists from across subject disciplines to share best practices and collaborate on epidemiologic approaches towards improving all-hazard disaster preparedness and response capacities at local, state, regional, and national levels. This workshop is funded through a cooperative agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Center for Environmental Health.

Workshop resources:
Disaster epidemiology training:
Epidemiologists have technical skills that are needed in all phases of the disaster cycle and that can be utilized to produce actionable information during an emergency. CSTE is collaborating with CDC and other partners to provide novel training in disaster epidemiology for epidemiologists. Each training session brings together three existing federal tools for epidemiologists in disaster situations: Community Assessment for Public Health Emergency Response (CASPER), Emergency Responder Health Monitoring and Surveillance (ERHMS), and Assessment of Chemical Exposures (ACE). The inaugural training took place in April 2012 as part of the disaster epidemiology workshop. Subsequent trainings are planned.
Disaster Epidemiology Brochure
CSTE DE Subcommittee Publications
  • The Role of Applied Epidemiology Methods in the Disaster Management Cycle
    A framework for applying epidemiologic methods and approaches to emergency response during disasters has recently been published in the American Journal of Public Health1 to assist practitioners at all levels in planning for and responding to emergencies. The framework includes methods such as rapid needs assessments, health surveillance, tracking and registries, and epidemiological investigations (such as risk factor analyses, health outcome studies and evaluations of interventions). These tools and methods can be practiced throughout the disaster management cycle and can provide actionable information for planners and decision-makers responsible for emergency preparedness, response and recovery. Known as “disaster epidemiology” (applied epidemiology for disaster settings), is being integrated into the public health response to disasters, and is providing the evidence base to inform and enhance response capability from the local to state and national levels of emergency response. We invite you to read about this new framework, consider how your organization may integrate epidemiological methods into your disaster response efforts, and give us feedback if you have suggestions or tips on how to help partners collaborate on disaster epi.
    1. 1. The Role of Applied Epidemiology Methods in the Disaster Management Cycle. Josephine Malilay et al. Am J Public Health. 2014;104:2092–2102. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2014.302010
Selected Webinars and Presentations
Disaster Epidemiology Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):
Helpful Disaster Epidemiology Links:
  • Community Assessment for Public Health Emergency Response (CASPER): http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/hsb/disaster/casper.htm
    • Following any type of disaster, public health and emergency management professionals must be prepared to respond to and meet the needs of the affected public. The Community Assessment for Public Health Emergency Response (CASPER) enables public health practitioners and emergency management officials to determine rapidly the health status and basic needs of the affected community. CASPER uses valid statistical methods to gather information about health and basic needs, allowing public health and emergency managers to prioritize their response and distribution of resources accurately

  • Emergency Responder Health and Safety Monitoring System (ERHMS): http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/erhms/
    • NIOSH worked with the U.S. National Response Team (NRT), and a number of federal agencies, state health departments, labor unions, and volunteer emergency responder groups to develop the Emergency Responder Health Monitoring and Surveillance (ERHMS) system. The ERHMS provides guidelines for protecting emergency responders over a full range of emergency types and settings. It is for use by all who are involved in deployment and protection of emergency responders. This includes incident management and response organization leadership, health, safety and medical personnel, and emergency responders.

  • Assessment of Chemical Exposure (ACE): http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/ntsip/ace.html
    • When toxic substance spills or chemical emergencies happen, ATSDR helps state and local health departments by providing ACE resources to perform a rapid epidemiologic assessment. ACE provides training on how to perform an epidemiologic assessment after a chemical incident. The ACE Toolkit is a helpful resource to assist local authorities in responding to or preparing for a chemical release. The toolkit contains materials that can quickly be modified to meet the needs of a local team performing an epidemiologic assessment. When an incident occurs ACE provides technical assistance by forming a multi-disciplinary, often multi-agency, team to assist the state and local health department.

For more information about the Disaster Epidemiology Subcommittee and its activities, please contact Jessica Wurster. Click here to view other environmental health activities or click here to view the Emergency Preparedness page.

Recent Forum Activity
Shelter Surveillance Tools
Posted by: Stephen Clay, Thursday, November 20, 2014
Forum: General Discussion
Long-term Follow-up Planning Guides?
Posted by: Tess Gallagher MPH, Tuesday, July 02, 2013
Forum: General Discussion
 View All Forums »

Search CSTE
Member Log In


Forgot your password?

Haven't joined yet?