Improving global prehospital and emergency health care, public health, and disaster health and preparedness

Position Statements

Below are WADEM’s Position Statements as adopted by the Board of Directors.

Accurate Reporting of Public Health Information

The mission of WADEM is the global improvement of prehospital and emergency health care, public health, and disaster health and preparedness. The accurate and transparent release of public health information is necessary to inform response and recovery activities associated with disasters.

The resolution to adopt the international health regulations in 2005 recognized the World Health Organization's leadership in monitoring and responding to public health emergencies.1

Preservation of global health security is reliant upon timely reporting of emergencies and health threats to enable appropriate preparedness and response.2

Withholding, suppression, delayed or deliberate inaccurate reporting of public health information presents a risk for potential health threats to populations. The restriction of epidemiological health information hampers efforts to respond to events.3

The transparent and timely release of public health information is logical, ethical, and required to maintain and improve global health.

As such WADEM endorses that:

  • Global health security is reliant upon timely reporting of emergencies and threats to enable appropriate preparedness and response.
  • Withholding, suppression, delayed or deliberate inaccurate reporting of public health information presents a risk of potential health threats to populations.
  • That Customary International Humanitarian law recognizes the prohibition of attacks on, destruction of or render useless any public health infrastructure indispensable to the survival of the civilian population; that the Geneva Convention (Article 55 & 56) requires that any occupying power must restore the public health infrastructure and protections afforded to the civilian population to mitigate and prevent mortality and morbidity after any conflict or war; that this applies equally to post sudden-onset-natural disasters or public health emergencies of international concern necessary to protect the global health.
  • The accurate, transparent and timely release of official public health information is necessary to identify risks, provide health alerts and promote and protect global health.

Adopted by the Board of Directors on 8 December 2017.

References:

  1. Organization WH. International Health Regulations (2005): World Health Organization; 2008.
  2. DOC I. Global health security-epidemic alert and response. 2001.
  3. Burkle FM. Global health security demands a strong international health regulations treaty and leadership from a highly resourced World Health Organization. Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness. 2015;9(5):568-80.

Climate Change

Climate change is affecting disaster risk and disaster impact. WADEM recognizes climate change as an issue of global concern. It is WADEM’s responsibility to support the capacity of emergency management, humanitarian, and health professionals to address the disaster impacts of climate change.

WADEM supports health improvement activities, with emphasis on health promotion during and following a disaster to reduce the effects of climate change, achieved by cooperation among and between multidisciplinary professions involved in research, education, management, and practice in prehospital, emergency, public health, and disaster health care.

The United Nations General Assembly has encouraged the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to continue to assess the adverse effects of climate change upon communities and recognises the need for implementation of disaster risk reduction programmes.1 The Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation2 and the Fifth Assessment Report produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change3 provide an updated review of scientific knowledge relevant to climate change and reported consensus on emerging risks associated with climate change; as such it represents an emerging threat to the health status of communities. Impact categories identified by these reports relative to disaster risk include:

  • Increased morbidity and mortality due to extreme heat waves, fire, and other extreme weather events;
  • Biodiversity changes leading to infectious disease spread and duration due to alterations in weather and vector distribution;
  • Reduced food yields due to drought;
  • Increased displacement of populations; and
  • Increased risk of conflict, poverty, and economic shock.

The Lancet Countdown on tracking progress on health and climate change is an international, multidisciplinary research collaboration which aims to track the health impacts of climate hazards, health resilience and adaptation, health co-benefits of climate change, and calls for mitigation and broader political engagement.4

The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (2015-2030), a 2015 UN landmark agreement, outlines priorities for action while identifying climate change as both a driver of disaster risk and as an influencing factor of disaster impact and sustainable development.5 As a result, WADEM:

  • Recognizes the importance of climate change due to its influence on frequency and severity of natural hazards, and on disasters of natural, public health-related, and conflict causes; and
  • Recommends all disaster and emergency professionals and organizations adopt a risk-based approach to emergency planning that prepares for and enhances resilience to climate change effects and recommends linking this to the implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (2015-2030).

Adopted by the Board of Directors on 24 April 2017.

Download the Position Statement

References:

  1. United Nations General Assembly resolutions on natural disasters and vulnerability (59/233 and 58/215).
  2. IPCC. Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Core Writing Team: Field CB, Barros V, Stocker TF, et al]. IPCC; Geneva, Switzerland; 2012:582pp.
  3. IPCC. Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report. Contribution of Working Groups I, II, and III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Core Writing Team: Pachauri RK and Meyer LA (eds.)]. IPCC; Geneva, Switzerland; 2014:151pp.
  4. Watts N, et al. The Lancet Countdown: Tracking Progress on Health and Climate Change. Lancet. 2017;389(10074):1151–1164.
  5. United Nations General Assembly. Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030. A/RES/69/283: 2015.