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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, 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
  • Training
  • Baseline surveillance data
  • Annual disaster epidemiology workshop
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
Disaster epidemiology workshop:

The Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE) convened the fourth annual National Disaster Epidemiology Workshop on May 8-9, 2013 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Atlanta, GA. The theme of the 2013 workshop was “Partners in Disaster Response—Crosscutting Collaborations in Disaster Epidemiology.” The topics highlighted at this year's meeting included public health collaborations in disaster epidemiology, special issues in disaster epidemiology and preparedness (including legal issues, climate change, and mental health surveillance), improving mortality and morbidity surveillance during disasters (especially extreme weather events), and a panel presentation on the public health response to Super Storm Sandy.

This workshop was 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 will bring 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.

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..

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