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Anticipating the psychosocial impact of disasters and crises: the need for an interdisciplinary social science framework.

Dückers, M.L. Anticipating the psychosocial impact of disasters and crises: the need for an interdisciplinary social science framework. Prehospital and Disaster Medicine: 2017, 32(supp. 1) S 181. Abstracts: WADEM Congress on Disaster and Emergency Medicine 2017, Toronto, 25-28 april 2017
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Study/Objective
An interdisciplinary social science framework is presented to answer the question: how to anticipate the psychosocial impact of disasters and crises?

Background
The scientific knowledge on health effects, and the quality of aftercare in a disaster context is strongly rooted in epidemiology and mental health care research. Although this knowledge base is sufficient to understand the psychosocial impact, conceptualizing an adequate reaction requires a broader approach incorporating less traditional disciplines such as public administration, organization studies, implementation science, sociology and disaster risk reduction.

Methods
The starting point for the development of the framework was a model proposed by Alexander (2012), in which the combination of exposure, cultural and historical factors influences the vulnerability of human socioeconomic systems. This “plexus of context and consequences” determines the human consequences of disaster. Recent research findings from different disciplines were combined into a framework focusing on the psychosocial dimension of disasters and crises.

Results
The framework contains three domains. Exposure has a direct impact on the well-being, functioning and health of affected people (“health”). Exposure, history and culture directly influence interrelated sets of capacities at the individual, community and society level (“capacity”). Capacity is linked to health, partly in a paradoxical way – as well as, a third domain: psychosocial support provided by professionals and comprehensive inter-organizational programs (“psychosocial support”). The relationship between psychosocial support and health is amply understood. Theoretically, psychosocial support is most effective when capacity is strengthened and utilized.

Conclusion
The framework emphasizes two complicated causal attribution issues, and encourages interdisciplinary research into mechanisms linking domains that generally have been studied as isolated topics.