The goal of this paper is to bring attention to the need for a systematic review of current health practices in disasters in order to reach effective protocols for future health interventions. Systematic reviews critique and synthesis current research in a particular area. The authors state that an evidence-based approach to disaster health care reveals knowledge gaps that should be addressed.

The paper, “Optimal Evidence in Difficult Settings: Improving Health Interventions and Decision Making in Disasters,” was published in the Public Library of Science Journal of Medicine Policy Forum, and is written by 14 authors from a variety of research centers and backgrounds.

What it says

As with any type of health care, medical decisions should be guided by the best possible evidence and research. The authors argue that an evidence approach should be used when providing medical aid and care in disaster situations. Relying on such an approach establishes which approaches work, which do not work, which need more research, and which are harmful.

The authors state that first, existing research should be collated and analyzed to establish current best practices; and second, gaps in knowledge should be identified. Additional research in disaster settings is important, in order to provide the most effective health care under the chaotic stressors of a disaster situation.

Why it matters

For medical funders, one of the key takeaways is the authors’ notation that conducting research in the aftermath of disasters can be perceived as distracting from the main objectives of saving lives and speeding recovery. The authors conclude that continuing to use procedures and protocols in disasters that are ineffective or potentially harmful are just as distracting and potentially unethical. Thus, funders should remember that medical aid is always key in disasters, but so is the necessary research to establish appropriate disaster health interventions and provide systematic reviews of evidence.

Read the full paper here.