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WHO’s First Social Media Effort: Making Hospitals Disaster-Safe

I got an email from Mari (M4ID_Mari on Twitter) on behalf of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Emergencies and Humanitarian Action team in South East Asia, based in New Delhi about WHO’s first social media-driven effort, aiming to engage 1 million people in the issue of making hospitals safe in disasters. From WHO

“Floods, tsunamis, earthquakes, cyclones – the WHO South-East Asia Region is particularly vulnerable to natural disasters. In 1996-2005, such events led to the deaths of more than half a million people in this region. This makes up 58% of the total number of people killed worldwide due to natural disasters.

Hospitals are lifelines in the aftermath of a disaster, when large numbers of people are critically injured or vulnerable. It is particularly vital that they remain intact and functional to save lives. In addition to treating disaster victims, hospitals must also quickly resume treatment of everyday emergencies and routine care. When hospitals are damaged or destroyed during disasters, it has a social, economic as well as health impact. Hospitals and health facilities are at the core of the structure of every community. They also protect health workers and the most vulnerable people – the sick – all the time. When these are damaged, it can have a psychological impact on the entire community.

The health impact of damaged hospitals can be long-term as well as immediate. For example, in Aceh, Indonesia, the tsunami of 2004 destroyed 61% of its health facilities, and killed 7% of its health workers and 30% of its midwives. It led to a crisis in Aceh’s primary care, maternal health and neonatal care.

Damaged health facilities are also an economic issue, as hospitals, and their human resources, are an enormous investment for any country. The indirect costs to a nation -such as decline in health and wellbeing of the population, the impact on overall recovery and a disincentive for future external investments-are incalculable.

When disasters damage health systems, they do more than destroy the community’s lifeline. They affect the country’s development potential. Its ability to achieve the Millennium Development Goals such as reducing child mortality and maternal mortality, and combating HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and other diseases, is seriously compromised.

The direct and indirect cost of a damaged health facility far exceeds the cost of building a disaster-resilient one.

The technology already exists.

Incorporating disaster-protection elements into the design will add only 4% to the cost of the building. Retrofitting costs vary but can sometimes be as low as 1% for certain parts called nonstructural elements.

Ensuring hospitals are disaster-resilient goes beyond the physical structure of the buildings. Training the health workforce to function in emergencies plays a fundamental role in making a hospital safe from natural disasters.

Keeping hospitals safe from disasters is everyone’s business. It can make all the difference between life and death.”

WHO’s social media outreach approach is part of their ongoing work to make South-East Asia more disaster-prepared. The initiative is spearheaded by a Facebook reaction test application and a simple message:

Disasters Destroy in Seconds – WHO Needs You To React Fast

[Click on the image above or HERE to go to the app page]

If you are on Facebook, click on the image below or HERE to go to the Facebook app. You can then challenge your friends for their reaction times (and make them aware).

The apps invite people to test how quickly they can respond and to challenge friends to beat their time. Each reaction counts towards building the wave of public support WHO now needs to push decision-makers (who committed to this issue last year) in to making hospitals safe.

This is a novel approach for the WHO and it is the first step towards social web driven disaster preparedness and response communication.

With partners, WHO is working to ensure health facilities are build to withstand emergencies, have contingency plans in place and that staff are trained to help people under post-disaster conditions. This will save thousands of lives. As a result of coordinated efforts, last year, governments (including India) officially committed to ensuring health facilities, old or new, are made safe from disasters. With the help of public support, the WHO seeks to push the same decision-makers and the hospital industry in to taking concrete action to prevent needless loss of life in future.

*This blog post was originally published at scan man's notes*

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