February 22, 2011
A new RAND Corporation study outlines how communities can build resilience to disasters through efforts such as joint planning of government and non-governmental organizations and the development of community networks.
"This work provides a 'road map' of activities that public health officials and other regional leaders can pursue to help their communities survive and recover from health-related emergencies such as natural disasters or pandemic flu outbreaks," said Anita Chandra, the project's leader and a behavioral scientist at RAND, a nonprofit research organization.
"We know that communities are already doing many things to bolster community resilience, but it is not always systematic," Chandra said. "The road map provides a more tangible blueprint for how communities can strengthen resilience to such emergencies."
Researchers say that once communities have made use of the resilience road map, the experience gained through testing these activities and strategies will allow creation of a more-robust and detailed list of actions that can help guide national planning in the future.
Community resilience refers to the sustained ability of a community to withstand and swiftly recover from natural or man-made disasters. Because it will never be possible to prevent all disasters, community resilience has become an important policy objective at federal, state and local levels and has been a leading issue in the development of the National Health Security Strategy and other national frameworks.
Because resources are limited in the wake of an emergency, it is increasingly recognized that resilience is critical to a community's ability to shorten recovery periods after an emergency. Just as individual households have been encouraged to prepare for emergencies, communities are now being urged to become more resilient by developing community-level solutions that will help them cope and swiftly recover from disasters, researchers say.
The eight tenets of community resilience for national health security are wellness, access, education, engagement, self-sufficiency, partnership, quality and efficiency. For example, self-sufficiency should involve efforts to recognize the vital role citizens should play as first responders to help their own families and neighbors in the first hours following a major disaster. Engagement should build the capacity of social, faith-based, and volunteer organizations to involve community members in collective action to address an issue or problem.
RAND researchers developed the road map by reviewing previous studies, holding focus groups with stakeholders and interviewing experts across related fields.
The study was supported by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response and was produced within the RAND Public Health Systems and Preparedness Initiative.
The study, "Building Community Resilience to Disasters: A Way Forward to Enhance National Health Security," is available at www.rand.org. Other authors of the study are Joie Acosta, Stefanie Stern, Lori Uscher-Pines, Malcolm Williams, Douglas Yeung, Jeffrey Garnett and Lisa S. Meredith.
RAND Health, a division of the RAND Corporation, is the nation's largest independent health policy research program, with a broad research portfolio that focuses on healthcare costs, quality, and public health preparedness, among other topics.