Health

Sonny S. Patel, Oleksii Sukhovii, Oleksandr Zvinchuk, Julian H. Neylan, and Timothy Erickson. 2021. “Converging Impact of the Ongoing Conflict and COVID-19 Pandemic on Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders in Ukraine.” Journal of Emergency Management. Read PublicationAbstract

Since the Russian annexation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the subsequent occupation of parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, Ukraine has been facing increasing security and healthcare challenges. The seven-year war in East Ukraine has led to a rise in substance and alcohol use and increasing addiction rates among veterans, internally displaced persons, and civilian survivors. This article examines the combined impact of the ongoing Russo–Ukrainian conflict and COVID-19 pandemic on substance use in Ukraine. It also gives an overview of the institutions in place to monitor and improve mental health in the country. The article highlights the urgent need for further funding and research on substance and alcohol addiction, with vulnerable populations affected by the conflict during the COVID-19 pandemic. Frontline healthcare workers in this region should anticipate an increased burden of patients suffering from substance use disorders who are in need of emergency management intervention and proper behavioral health referrals.

Sonny Patel, Omar Moncayo, Kristina Conroy, Doug Jordan, and Timothy Erickson. 9/2020. “The Landscape of Disinformation on Health Crisis Communication During the COVID-19 Pandemic in Ukraine: Hybrid Warfare Tactics, Fake Media News and Review of Evidence.” Journal of Science Communication. Read PublicationAbstract

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the world in ways not seen since the 1918–1920 Spanish Flu. Disinformation campaigns targeting health crisis communication during this pandemic seek to cripple the medical response to the novel coronavirus and instrumentalize the pandemic for political purposes. Propaganda from Russia and other factions is increasingly infiltrating public and social media in Ukraine. Still, scientific literature has only a limited amount of evidence of hybrid attacks and disinformation campaigns focusing on COVID-19 in Ukraine. We conducted a review to retrospectively examine reports of disinformation surrounding health crisis communication in Ukraine during the COVID-19 response. Based on the themes that emerged in the literature, our recommendations are twofold: 1) increase transparency with verified health crisis messaging and, 2) address the leadership gap in reliable regional information about COVID-19 resources and support in Ukraine.

Virginia M. Tran, Laila Fozouni, Jana K. Denkinger, Caroline Rometsch, Florian Junne, Patrick Vinck, and Phuong Pham. 7/2021. “Factors influencing utilization and perception of health care: a qualitative study among traumatized Yazidi refugees in Germany.” BMC Psychiatry. Read PublicationAbstract

Background: Ensuring adequate utilization of healthcare services for displaced populations is critical, yet there are well-documented treatment gaps. Yazidi women captured by the Islamic State (IS) were subjected to extreme trauma and violence. This study aims to understand perceptions of healthcare providers and utilization of these services among women who experienced extreme trauma.

Methods: This is a qualitative study with voluntary participation offered to approximately 400 women resettled through the Special Quota Program. An empirical approach was used to collect data and a grounded theory approach was used for content analysis. Participants ranked their interactions with providers on a Likert scale. Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms were assessed using the impact of event scale-revised questionnaire.

Results: A total of 116 Yazidi women participated in this study. The women experienced an average of 6.8 months of captivity by IS and 93% met criteria for probable PTSD. Eighty-three percent of the women interacted with a physician; 80% found this interaction helpful. Sixty-nine percent interacted with psychologists; 61% found this interaction helpful. Six themes emerged: “reminders of trauma” and “hopelessness” in relation to the traumatic experience; “immediate relief” and “healing through pharmaceutical treatment” in relation to provider interventions, and “support” and “cultural differences” in relation to interactions with providers.

Conclusions: There exist major barriers to care for Yazidi women who experienced extreme trauma, particularly in regards to psychiatric care. Perceptions of healthcare providers and perceived effectiveness of therapy are critical factors that must be taken into consideration to improve healthcare utilization and outcomes.

Jana Katharina Denkinger, Caroline Rometsch, Martha Engelhardt, Petra Windthorst, Johanna Graf, Phuong Pham, Niamh Gibbons, Stephan Zipfel, and Florian Junne. 5/2021. “Longitudinal Changes in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder After Resettlement Among Yazidi Female Refugees Exposed to Violence.” JAMA Network Open.Abstract

Importance: Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is highly prevalent among refugees surviving mass atrocities, especially among women. Longitudinal studies investigating factors associated with PTSD course are essential to enable adequate treatment yet widely lacking.

Objective: To identify longitudinal changes in PTSD severity and posttraumatic coping among severely traumatized female refugees as well as risk and protective factors for PTSD course.

Design, Setting, and Participants: This prospective cohort study took place in 14 German cities in the context of a humanitarian admission program that resettled 1000 especially vulnerable women and children from northern Iraq to Germany. Approximately 400 adult beneficiaries of the humanitarian admission program were eligible for the study. At baseline, a total of 116 of the 400 beneficiaries (29.0%) participated, with 96 (82.8%) of these women participating in the follow-up assessment. The study included a baseline assessment conducted 2 years after resettlement (September 1, 2017, to January 12, 2018) and a 1-year follow-up (August 29, 2018, to January 15, 2019).

Exposures: Violence and/or captivity during the 2014 genocide in northern Iraq by the so-called Islamic State.

Main Outcomes and Measures: Posttraumatic stress disorder severity and coping strategies were assessed in interpreter-aided interviews using the Impact of Event Scale–Revised.

Results: A total of 116 women (mean [SD] age, 32.2 [8.2] years; 115 [99.1%] Yazidi; 1 [0.9%] Christian) participated at baseline. According to the Impact of Event Scale–Revised, a high PTSD severity was found (mean [SD] raw sum score, 60.88 [15.75] of 88, with higher scores indicating greater distress), with no significant change over time. Helpful coping strategies included prayer, belief in collective strength, and belief in personal strength. Earlier symptoms of intrusions (β = 0.389, P = .007) and longer captivity (β = 0.218, P = .02) were identified as being associated with PTSD severity 1 year later. Longer captivity was associated with PTSD aggravation over time (β = 0.227, P = .04). Posttraumatic strengthening in faith (β = −0.206, P = .05) and in social relationships (β = −0.221, P = .03) were associated with a reduction in PTSD symptoms.

Conclusions and Relevance: These findings suggest that female refugee survivors of genocide are at high risk for severe and chronic PTSD beyond the initial years of resettlement. The findings provide suggestions for mental health care specialized for particularly vulnerable populations.

Asha Devereaux, Holly Yang, Gilbert Seda, Viji Sankar, Ryan C. Maves, Navaz Karanjia, John Scott Parrish, Christy Rosenberg, Paula Goodman-Crews, Lynette Cederquist, Frederick M. Burkle Jr., Jennifer Tuteur, Chiara Leroy, and Kristi L. Koenig. 9/2020. “Optimizing Scarce Resource Allocation During COVID-19: Rapid Creation of a Regional Health-Care Coalition and Triage Teams in San Diego County, California.” Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness. Read PublicationAbstract

Successful management of an event where healthcare needs exceed regional healthcare capacity requires coordinated strategies for scarce resource allocation. Publications for rapid development, training, and coordination of regional hospital triage teams manage the allocation of scarce resources during COVID-19 are lacking. Over a period of 3 weeks, over 100 clinicians, ethicists, leaders, and public health authorities convened virtually to achieve consensus on how best to save the most lives possible and share resources. This is referred to as population-based crisis management. The rapid regionalization of 22 acute care hospitals across 4500 square miles in the midst of a pandemic with a shifting regulatory landscape was challenging, but overcome by mutual trust, transparency, and confidence in the public health authority. Because many cities are facing COVID-19 surges, we share a process for successful rapid formation of healthcare care coalitions, Crisis Standard of Care, and training of Triage Teams. Incorporation of continuous process improvement and methods for communication is essential for successful implementation. Utilization of our regional healthcare coalition communications, incident command system, and the crisis care committee helped mitigate crisis care in the San Diego and Imperial County region as COVID-19 cases surged and scarce resource collaborative decisions were required.

Krzysztof Goniewicz, Mariusz Goniewicz, Frederick M. Burkle Jr., and Amir Khorram-Manesh. 10/2020. “The Impact of Experience, Length of Service, and Workplace Preparedness in Physicians' Readiness in the Response to Disasters.” Journal of Clinical Medicine.Abstract
With an increasing number of natural and man-made disasters, the need for preparedness in all levels of management is obvious. Among healthcare professionals responding to these emergencies, physicians are of particular importance due to their significant roles as leaders and frontline workers in minimizing morbidity and mortality of the affected population. This study analyses the preparedness of 549 physicians from all medical centers in Lublin, Poland to formulate their observations, suggestions, and recommendations concerning the improvement of the chain of response in disaster management. The results of this study show that the perceived preparedness of physicians for disaster management and response is not as high as it should be, and the majority of the respondents perceived their disaster preparedness insufficient. Training of physicians in disaster management and principles of disaster medicine is needed, by focusing on the specificity of rescue response to emergencies following disasters, and medical and non-medical aspects of the response with particular emphasis on a management approach covering all hazards.
Amir Khorram-Manesh and Frederick M. Burkle Jr. 10/2020. “Sustainability Editorial Disasters and Public Health Emergencies-Current Perspectives in Preparedness and Response.” Sustainability. Read PublicationAbstract

Disasters and public health emergencies are inevitable and can happen anywhere and anytime. However, they can be mitigated and their impacts can be minimized by utilizing appropriate measures in all four different phases of disaster management, i.e., mitigation and prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery. Several factors are crucial for achieving successful disaster management. In the mitigation and preparation phase, all risks should be reviewed and new ones should be added and analyzed carefully to propose proper solutions and plans. In the preparedness phase, the ability and knowledge of each organization and all individuals in the management system should be tested and evaluated to ensure good readiness in responding to an emergency. Furthermore, plans should be available at all levels of the emergency chain of action to cope with all issues in the response and recovery phases [1,2]. This Issue of Sustainability aimed to cover emergency and public health crisis management from a multiagency perspective, by discussing lessons learned, introducing new ideas about flexible surge capacity, and showing the way it can practice multiagency collaboration.

Amir Khorram-Manesh, Frederick M. Burkle Jr., Phatthranit Phattharapornjaroen, Milad Ahmadi Marzaleh, Mohammed Al Sultan, Matti Mantysaari, Eric Carlström, Krzysztof Goniewicz, Emelia Santamaria, John David Comandante, Robert Dobson, Boris Hreckovski, Glenn-Egil Torgersen, Luc J. Mortelmans, Mirjam de Jong, and Yohan Robinson. 11/2020. “The Development of Swedish Military Healthcare System: Part II-Re-evaluating the Military and Civilian Healthcare Systems in Crises Through a Dialogue and Study Among Practitioners.” Military Medicine.Abstract

Introduction: Historical changes have transformed Sweden from being an offensive to a defensive and collaborative nation with national and international engagement, allowing it to finally achieve the ground for the civilian–military collaboration and the concept of a total defense healthcare. At the same time, with the decreasing number of international and interstate conflicts, and the military’s involvement in national emergencies and humanitarian disaster relief, both the need and the role of the military healthcare system within the civilian society have been challenged. The recent impact of the COVID-19 in the USA and the necessity of military involvement have led health practitioners to anticipate and re-evaluate conditions that might exceed the civilian capacity of their own countries and the need to have collaboration with the military healthcare. This study investigated both these challenges and views from practitioners regarding the benefits of such collaboration and the manner in which it would be initiated.

Material and Method: A primary study was conducted among responsive countries using a questionnaire created using the Nominal Group Technique. Relevant search subjects and keywords were extracted for a systematic review of the literature, according to the PRISMA model.

Results: The 14 countries responding to the questionnaire had either a well-developed military healthcare system or units created in collaboration with the civilian healthcare. The results from the questionnaire and the literature review indicated a need for transfer of military medical knowledge and resources in emergencies to the civilian health components, which in return, facilitated training opportunities for the military staff to maintain their skills and competencies.

Conclusions: As the world witnesses a rapid change in the etiology of disasters and various crises, neither the military nor the civilian healthcare systems can address or manage the outcomes independently. There is an opportunity for both systems to develop future healthcare in collaboration. Rethinking education and training in war and conflict is indisputable. Collaborative educational initiatives in disaster medicine, public health and complex humanitarian emergencies, international humanitarian law, and the Geneva Convention, along with advanced training in competency-based skill sets, should be included in the undergraduate education of health professionals for the benefit of humanity.

Robert I.S. Macpherson and Frederick M. Burkle Jr. 11/2020. “Humanitarian Aid Workers: The Forgotten First Responders.” Prehospital and Disaster Medicine. Read PublicationAbstract

Humanitarian aid workers are an overlooked population within the structure of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) research and assistance. This negligence is an industry-wide failure to address aid workers’ psychological health issues. The suspected numbers of death by suicide, diagnosed PTSD, depression, anxiety disorders, hazardous alcohol and drug consumption, emotional exhaustion, and other stress-related problems are impossible to quantify but are considered endemic. Tools for establishing organizational frameworks for mental health and psychosocial support are readily available. However, the capacity to implement this assistance requires the creation and practice of an open and non-judgmental culture, based on the realistic acceptance that aid work has become inherently dangerous. The possibility of developing a psychological problem because of aid work has increased along with the rise in levels of disease, injury, kidnapping, and assault. As a result, expressions of traumatic stress have become the norm rather than an exception. This commentary outlines the essential steps and components necessary to meet these requirements.

Amir Khorram-Manesh and Frederick M. Burkle Jr. 12/2020. Emergencies and Public Health Crisis Management-Current Perspectives on Risks and Multiagency Collaboration. MDPI.Abstract

Disasters and public health emergencies are inevitable and can happen anywhere and anytime. However, they can be mitigated and their impacts can be minimized by utilizing appropriate measures in all four different phases of disaster management, i.e., mitigation and prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery. Several factors are crucial for achieving successful disaster management. Altogether, this Issue offers new insights into emergency and public health crisis management from a multiagency perspective and allows discussion about new potential risks; lessons learned; and the introduction of new concepts such as flexible surge capacity, and shows some new aspects of practicing multiagency collaboration before, during, and after disasters and public health emergencies.

Krzysztof Goniewicz, Mariusz Goniewicz, Frederick M. Burkle Jr., and Amir Khorram-Manesh. 1/2021. “Cohort research analysis of disaster experience, preparedness, and competency-based training among nurses.” PLoS ONE. Read PublicationAbstract

Introduction: It is expected that in unforeseen situations, nurses will provide appropriate medical interventions, using their expertise and skills to reduce the risks associated with the consequences of disasters. Consequently, it is crucial that they are properly prepared to respond to such difficult circumstances. This study aimed to identify the factors influencing the basic competences of nurses in disasters.

Materials and methods: The survey was directed to 468 nurses from all medical centres in Lublin. IBM SPSS Statistics version 23 was used for statistical analyses, frequency analysis, basic descriptive statistics and logistic regression analysis. The classical statistical significance level was adopted as α = 0.05.

Results: Based on the logistic regression analysis, it was found that work experience, workplace preparedness, as well as training and experience in disaster response are important predictors of preparedness.

Conclusions: These findings indicate that the nurses' core competencies for these incidents can be improved through education and training programmes which increase their preparedness for disasters. Nurses are among the most important groups of healthcare professionals facing a disaster and should be involved in all phases of disaster management, such as risk assessment and pre-disaster planning, response during crisis situations and risks’ mitigation throughout the reconstruction period.

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