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Mil Med. 2006 Oct;171(10 Suppl 1):15-8.

Asian tsunami relief: Department of Defense public health response: policy and strategic coordination considerations.

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1
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, Washington, DC 20301, USA.

Abstract

The Asian tsunami of December 26, 2004, was one of the most devastating natural disasters in modern history. In particular, this disaster created massive, unique, public health threats, necessitating equally massive public health response efforts. The U.S. government (USG), including the Department of Defense (DoD), played a pivotal role in the response. This article examines some of the central policy issues and strategic coordination and planning measures involved in the public health response. The nearly unanimous consensus of international public health experts has been that the potential public health crisis in the aftermath of the Asian tsunami was averted largely because of the coordinated efforts of host nation officials and professionals, international and nongovernmental health organizations, and bilateral donors, especially the USG, including the DoD. The DoD played a central role in public health efforts through coordination and communication assistance, logistical and materiel support, disease surveillance activities, health needs assessments, and the contributions of the USS Mercy hospital ship. The core lessons involve the importance of an early, dedicated, public health response as a component of the overall disaster relief effort, as well as seamless coordination of health sector stakeholders in the USG and with those of the international community and affected host nations, which allows each organization to play to its strengths and to avoid duplication. The Asian tsunami relief effort highlighted the value of civil-military cooperation in disaster relief, particularly in the area of public health. The prominent role of the DoD in tsunami relief efforts, including public health efforts, also yielded beneficial secondary effects by bolstering security cooperation and winning "hearts and minds" in the region.

PMID:
17447615
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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