In nearly every movie about an epidemic, from a sci-fi zombie flick to a more true-to-life thriller like “Contagion,” there is a scene where scientists crowd around screens full of data to create detailed maps containing infection zones and spread rates for the public.
While the stirring music, eye-catching maps, and beautiful scientists may be major stretches, these scenes do draw from reality. Millions of scientists and doctors do devote their lives to studying how disease spreads through populations, and understanding their methods might keep you alive longer during a disaster.
Roles of Public Health Specialists
The primary goal of most public health professionals is to prevent health-related disasters completely, but when that is impossible, those skilled in disaster medicine work to mitigate the harm experienced by those living in zones affected by the health threat.
Some focus on the clinical realm, which is largely practiced by physicians eager to be the “first on the scene” to treat and care for sufferers of mass injury or illness. However, more public health specialists work within the operational realm, which requires planners, logisticians, and administrators to stay practical and organized during an emergency.
Usually, public health specialists choose one of five roles within the field of disaster medicine:
- Prevention. This requires observing trends and acting to thwart human hazards before they develop into disasters.
- Preparedness. This entails a continuous cycle of planning, training, practicing, and evaluating disaster systems.
- Response. This is usually management during disasters, including coordinating personnel, organizing supplies and equipment, and overseeing victim treatment during a disaster.
- Recovery. This is the effort to restore typical community functions to stabilize an area after a health disaster.
- Mitigation. This is the concentrated effort to reduce losses of life or quality of life during any stage of a disaster.
How Public Health Can Help You
While the world is in desperate need of more dedicated public health specialists, you don’t necessarily have to enter the profession to benefit from knowledge gained in public health programs. In fact, just by learning the strategies used to study public health, including spatial analysis, qualitative data analysis, and more, you will be more likely to survive in a health-related disaster.
The media often misinterprets scientific studies and sensationalizes medical findings, causing widespread panic. However, when you are armed with a background in public health, you can investigate claims of potential disasters yourself.
You can stay abreast of potential threats to your region’s health so you will never be blindsided by a health-related emergency, or you can use applicable data to relocate to regions where medical emergencies are less likely to occur. Because good health is a primary predictor of how you will fare in a true disaster situation, understanding health data is essential to any good prepper’s plan.
Medical Emergency Preparedness Strategies
Regardless of whether you decide to study public health to better understand health patterns and more accurately predict health disasters, you should have a medical plan to keep you and your loved ones healthy and safe during an emergency. Some catastrophes, such as acts of terrorism and natural disasters, are not foreseeable using public health professionals’ techniques, which means having the necessary supplies and equipment on hand will likely save your life when disaster strikes.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers a prepping strategy that is easy enough for even a novice prepper to follow. It entails three steps: assemble an emergency kit, have an exit plan, and remain informed regarding health situations in your area.
The CDC’s recommended emergency kit is more basic than a prepper’s typical bug out bag, but it might be useful to compare their suggestions with what you already have packed. You might have forgotten something crucial, like prescription medications that will keep your body functioning in a disaster.
If you only have yourself to worry about during a disaster, it is easy to stay organized and in-control, but families definitely need plans to stay together and safe. Strategies to ensure communication, reunion, and escape should be memorized by even the smallest members of your household.
Finally, you should always maintain contact with information regarding your area’s health status. Your local health department likely has means of emergency communication, such as emergency text alerts, road signs, and sirens, to keep everyone informed of developing situations.
However, a mastery of public health will help you to stay in front of emerging health trends and understand regional threats to your health and safety, so you work to prevent potential disasters before they arise ― saving your life and thousands more lives of your friends and neighbors.