US Climate and Health Alliance

Developing-world disaster research: present evidence and future priorities


OBJECTIVES: The technology and resource-rich solutions of the developed world may not be completely applicable to or replicable in disasters occurring in the developing world. With the current looming hazards of pandemics, climate change, global terrorism and conflicts around the world, policy makers and governments will need high-quality scientific data to make informed decisions for preparedness and mitigation. The evidence on disasters in peer-reviewed journals about the developing world was examined for quality and quantity in this systematic review. METHODS: PubMed was searched using the Medical Subject Heading (MeSH) terms disasters, disaster medicine, rescue work, relief work, and conflict and then refined using the MeSH term developing country. The final list of selected manuscripts were analyzed by type of article, level of evidence, theme of the manuscript and topic, author affiliation, and region of the study. RESULTS: After searching and refining, <1% of the citations in PubMed addressed disasters in developing countries. The majority was original research articles or reviews, and most of the original research articles were level IV or V evidence. Less than 25% of the authors were from the developing world. The predominant themes were missions, health care provision, and humanitarian aid during the acute phase of disasters in the developing world. CONCLUSIONS: Considering that 85% of disasters and 95% of disaster-related deaths occur in the developing world, the overwhelming number of casualties has contributed insignificantly to the world's peer-reviewed literature. Less than 1% of all disaster-related publications are about disasters in the developing world. This may be a publication bias, or it may be a genuine lack of submissions dealing with these disasters. Authors in this part of the world need to contribute to future disaster research through better-quality systematic research and better funding priorities. Aid for sustaining long-term disaster research may be a more useful investment in mitigating future disasters than short-term humanitarian aid missions to the developing world.

Resource Type
Peer-reviewed article
Nobhojit Roy Purvi Thakkar Hemant Shah
Resource URL
Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness
Journal Abbr.
Disaster Med Public Health Prep
Jun 2011
Short Title
Developing-world disaster research
Disaster preparedness Public health/health sector response

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