Online Program

Overview of the Disaster Epidemiology Framework

Tuesday, November 3, 2015 : 12:30 p.m. - 12:50 p.m.

Michael Heumann, MPH, MA, HeumannHealth Consulting, Portland, OR
background:    The public health role of preparing for and responding to emergencies has expanded in the face of massive impacts from recent disasters.

The application of epidemiology in disaster settings, also known as disaster epidemiology (DE), can provide actionable information for use by policymakers, planners, incident commanders, decision-makers, and affected community

members, in all phases of the disaster management cycle.  DE encompasses rapid needs assessment, health surveillance, tracking, and epidemiological investigations (such as risk factor analyses, health outcome studies and evaluations of interventions). Information generated by DE action is useful for describing the types and severity of post disaster injuries and illnesses and causes of mortality.  DE surveillance systems may rapidly detect outbreaks or clusters of illness in shelters

methods:  The Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE) in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Environmental Health (CDC/NCEH) created a framework for applying epidemiologic methods and approaches to emergency response during disasters that was recently published in AJPH. 1 CSTE and CDC have been providing training to local, state and tribal public health departments to enhance their capacity to respond.  CDC has assisted local efforts in conducting surveillance in some especially large responses.


results:  There are a growing number of jurisdictions applying DE methods as part of their response to natural and manmade incidents.  Situational awareness is added by rapid interpretation of routinely collected data and is enhances by active, targeted surveillance. For example, rapidly collecting information on the status of affected health care delivery systems is able to provide needed information for resource allocation to protect vulnerable populations.


conclusions:  Most large-scale disasters carry substantial public health risk and requires a response that addresses immediate effects of the disaster on a population, as well as disaster-caused secondary effects (e.g., carbon monoxide poisoning because of improper operation of fuel generators).  Epidemiological methods have been developed to assess the scope of public health problems in communities and provide information about the effects on people’s physical and mental health as well as social and community needs for life-saving or life-preserving decisions. The public health information is also used to gauge medical needs, assess impacts on health care systems, and control the spread of rumors.

Learning Areas:

Environmental health sciences
Occupational health and safety
Protection of the public in relation to communicable diseases including prevention or control

Learning Objectives:
Describe the disaster management cycle. Name three ways that disaster epidemiology is used in public health disaster response. Describe how disaster epidemiology informs decision-making during a disaster response.

Keyword(s): Epidemiology, Emergency Preparedness

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have worked on disaster epidemiology (DE) for over seven years, with the Oregon Public Health Division, as well as with The Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). I have authored articles on DE and spoken about DE at numerous national meetings.
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.