|European Workshop on Educational Aspects of Health in Disasters (Council of Europe, 1982, 50 p.)|
When disasters occur they affect everyone in the immediate area, and leadership is required from educated members of the community. The workshop therefore emphasised the need for an increased awareness in European universities of the problems of disasters.
There is a need to promote studies in subjects relating to disasters - their analysis, prediction and prevention, issues in relief and rehabilitation, and the health problems of disaster-prone areas in Europe. Both research and teaching in these areas should be undertaken by European universities.
Personnel in the health sector have a vital role to play in all disaster and emergency planning and action. There is therefore a need for the provision of systematic postgraduate training for medical doctors, veterinarians and pharmacists. Bearing in mind, however, that nurses and public health officers are essential, the training should be open also to these groups.
Such training would also form a sound basis for the supplementary education of health personnel, who might be employed by governments or international agencies for disaster prevention and relief action in developing countries. A short one-week modular course would be sufficient to meet these needs.
The workshop noted with concern that, in general, within Europe the level of education of health personnel in public health and community medicine which is offered by the medical, nursing and veterinary schools is inadequate. This defect becomes crucial in emergencies and disaster situations.
Within Europe there are several geographically defined areas with a high risk of such natural disasters as earthquakes. The workshop considered that the education of relevant personnel in these areas, even at undergraduate level, should include adequate and relevant education on coping with the more prevalent local disasters. Members of many professions - engineering, environmental, social sciences, agriculture for example - have an effect on health in disaster situations and education on coping with health in disasters should not be confined to the traditional health professions.
Because of the relative infrequency of major disasters in Europe and the difficulty of access to some refugee communities, there is a need to pool knowledge on a European basis. In the case of high level health officials and of teachers of veterinary public health, for example, courses provided by one or two centres in Europe. Much teaching material for use in national courses may also be most effectively prepared on a European basis.
Throughout Europe there is a need for evaluation teams and where a centralised epidemiological service exists its members should have particular expertise in the assessment and evaluation of disaster work and may need appropriate training. However, at present the problem in most countries is to create such an organisation in the first place.
The workshop was well aware of the important role that the police, fire brigade and military play in assisting with many acute disasters in their own countries. It is likely that they will continue to be involved and more information on their training courses, especially that of the military, would be useful.