Disaster, Medicine and Philanthropy
Your recent article “Preparing for Disaster: Philanthropy and Medicine in a Post-9/11, Post-Katrina, Pre-Pandemic World” is a practical “shot across the bow” that should get the attention of readers and the political infrastructure. The story makes clear the necessity of bridging theory and practice for our nation’s disaster preparedness.
The need for a community-by- community assessment to build a fabric of understanding with which to improve each community’s situation, resource efficiently and learn efficaciously is paramount. This assessment is required across the nation. Social and political will and small amounts of resources are the only barriers to such an assessment.
Providing communities a system and tools for planning, strategically and operationally, in order to improve preparedness is also vital to building a fabric of interwoven readiness where best practices and standards are the pillars of preparedness efforts.
Both the community assessment and planning systems are available, tried and proven, and ready for use. The cost of deploying, using and reporting the community preparedness scorecard system and planning system would be less than seventeen cents (17¢) per person across the nation while maintaining these systems would be less than five cents (5¢) per person per year.
The scorecard system contains a community level simulation and medical surge capacity model to assess a community’s capability across the spectrum of chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, explosive and natural disasters.
In 2004-2005, 35 communities in Pennsylvania were assessed using the Community Scorecard System. The findings were serious in that each community scored relatively low in each critical area and revealed that key personnel concerned with disaster preparation and response do not necessarily meet and communicate regularly. Coupling the Community Scorecard System with the Planning System will provide a powerful approach to building up, learning and improving our preparedness status at the community level.
What we need is social and political will, relatively small amounts of resources and determination to improve our community’s level of preparedness. This starts with standardized assessment, analysis of a useful nature and tools to help improvement planning.
Georgia Southern University
Philanthropy’s cover story on disaster preparedness is an important contribution. But there’s much more to the story. Serious gaps exist in the nation’s ability to safeguard health, putting our families, communities, states and nation at risk. Addressing preparedness is critical, but it’s not enough. A strong public health system and public policies focused on prevention of disease and injury must also be part of the solution.
Good health comes from healthy lifestyles, good choices and a supporting environment in which to make those good decisions. For example, look at childhood obesity—one of the biggest health threats facing our nation. Children need to eat healthier food, but if the school is serving pizza and soda every day—what choices do they have? People of all ages need to exercise, but if the streets don’t have sidewalks or aren’t safe, and parks are overgrown or non-existent, what choice do they have?
A wide variety of social policy issues—from education to economic development, crime prevention to zoning decisions—are, in fact, public health issues. And when addressed, they can have a sizable impact on people’s health. This broad approach to public health is what helped our society cut smoking rates and drunk driving fatalities in half or tripled the percentage of drivers who buckle up.
Philanthropy possesses the vision, assets and staying power to bring together key players and transform communities and society itself for the better. We can begin by focusing on prevention and how to better manage chronic illnesses so that people can live longer, healthier lives without breaking the bank.
—Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A.
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Princeton, New Jersey
The cover story in the March/April edition of Philanthropy about the ways the philanthropic community is contributing to our nation’s disaster preparedness—from evaluating state policy to increasing local medical capacity in the event of a health crisis—was timely and comprehensive. It was quite informative to read about the wide range of efforts across our sector and the areas where additional investment in emergency planning is needed. Your article will certainly be a valuable resource for our colleagues working on this issue.
—Rebecca W. Rimel
Pew Charitable Trusts