The role of environmental health in understanding and mitigating postdisaster noncommunicable diseases: The critical need for improved interdisciplinary solutions
National Environmental Health Association
School of Medical and Health Sciences
Improvements in life expectancy and changes in lifestyle have contributed to a "disease transition" from communicable to noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). Damage to public health infrastructure (PHI), such as sanitation and water, places people with NCDs at risk of disease exacerbation or even death. We propose the interdisciplinary characteristics of environmental health (EH) and the indirect, but vital, role in maximizing treatment and care for people with NCDs demonstrates the profession is an essential resource for addressing this problem. To explore this proposal, five focus groups were conducted with 55 EH professionals in Queensland, Australia. Relationships were identified between NCD exacerbation and PHI, such as power, sanitation, services, supplies, and water. Preparedness and response activities should focus on this priority PHI, which will require EH professionals to be part of interdisciplinary solutions. Recognizing this role will help protect the health of people with NCDs during and after a disaster.