Rapid health and needs assessments after disasters.

Korteweg, H.A., Bokhoven, I. van, Grievink, L., Yzermans, J. Rapid health and needs assessments after disasters. Prehospital and Disaster Medicine: 2009, 24(sup 1) s24. Abstract. 16th World Congress for Disaster and Emergency Medicine,12-15 May 2009, Victoria (British Columbia), Canada.
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Background: Healthcare providers, stakeholders, and policy makers request a rapid insight into health status and needs of the affected population after disasters. No standardized rapid assessment tool is available for the Netherlands and other European countries.The aim of this article is to describe existing methods used worldwide and analyze them for the development of a workable rapid assessment tool. Methods: A systematic review was executed, including original studies concerning a rapid health and/or needs assessment.The studies used were published between 1988 and 2008. The electronic databases of Medline, Embase, SciSearch, and Psychinfo were used. Results: Twenty-five studies were included for this review. Most of the studies were of US origin and were related to disasters caused by natural hazards, especially the weather. In 14 studies, an assessment was executed using a questionnaire, seven studies used electronic records, and four used both methods. Questionnaires were used primarily to assess the health needs, while data records were used to assess the health status of disaster victims. The commonly used data collection methods were face-to-face interviews and hospital registration systems. Conclusions: Ideally, a rapid assessment tool that does not add to the burden of disaster victims is needed. In this perspective, the use of existing medical records or the use of routinely collected data during disasters is the most promising. Since there is an increasing need for such a tool, this approach needs further examination.(aut. ref.)