267753 Christchurch earthquakes: Public health response and recovery

Tuesday, October 30, 2012 : 5:10 PM - 5:30 PM

Daniel Williams, BA, MBChB, MPH, FNZCPHM , Community and Public Health Division, Canterbury District Health Board, Christchurch, New Zealand
Background/Purpose On 4 September 2010 a 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck 30km west of Christchurch, the major city in New Zealand's South Island , population 350,000. Despite extensive property and infrastructure damage, there were no fatalities. Much greater damage and 185 deaths resulted from a shallow 6.3 magnitude aftershock five months later.

Methods The acute public health responses addressed disruption to water and sewerage systems, food safety, welfare centre needs, recreational water contamination, and mental health. Longer term challenges include housing quality, social disruption, and re-establishing suburban centres and the Central Business District, which remains closed for building demolition. Key components of the public health response included adopting an emergency response structure, growing partnerships with other agencies, enhanced disease surveillance, and public communications. Most local public health work is now oriented to earthquake recovery, and our “Integrated Recovery Planning Guide” (IRPCG), describing a Health in All Policies approach to recovery planning, has been widely distributed.

Results/Outcomes In spite of extensive disruption to housing and water and sewerage systems there were no documented gastroenteritis outbreaks post-earthquake, and influenza rates were low during the 2011 winter. Vulnerable residents have received priority for winter heating assistance. Partnerships with other health and non-health agencies have been strengthened, and the IRPG is in widespread use in recovery planning.

Conclusions The earthquakes have provided major challenges but also significant opportunities for public health, highlighting the importance of both traditional health protection approaches and upstream Health in All Policies work.

Learning Areas:
Environmental health sciences
Protection of the public in relation to communicable diseases including prevention or control
Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines
Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
Describe the immediate public health response to the 2010-12 earthquakes in Christchurch, New Zealand. Describe the public health opportunities and challenges in post-earthquake recovery. Analyse key components contributing to a successful public health response.

Keywords: Emergency, Disasters

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a public health physician and Medical Officer of Health, and Clinical Director of the public health division of the Canterbury District Health Board. I was Incident Controller for the public health response to the September 2010 and February 2011 earthquakes. I head the public health team working on public health aspects of earthquake recovery.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.