Population Health

Furthering humanitarian assistance and disaster relief

National Guard team responds to flood conditions in a suburban neighborhoodHundreds of millions of people were affected by natural disasters over the last decade, with humanitarian crises forcibly displacing tens of millions more.

Given the scale of this challenge, it has been recognized that the response to these crises is a unique discipline. This has resulted in “professionalization” of the discipline with educational and training programs, operational research, and requirements for practice unique to disasters.

The initiative is engaged in a range of efforts to support development of a more integrated, interdisciplinary university approach to education, research and services in this space. Current activities include the following:

Experts database

The Population Health Initiative completed an initial landscape map of UW faculty, institute and center expertise related to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

We have also published a user-friendly web visualization to make it easier to understand the university’s overall clusters of expertise and possible gaps.

Undergraduate course

The Population Health Initiative offers a General Studies course, “Disasters: Approaches to Preparation, Response and Recovery,” during spring quarter.

The one-credit course features a series of faculty lectures focused on the research and service-related activities at the UW that contribute to preparations for, responses to and recovery from a natural or human-made disaster.

Graduate certificate

The initiative, in partnership with the UW Graduate School, offers a Graduate Certificate in International Humanitarian Response that is intended to train an interdisciplinary group of students to become the next generation of leaders in this field.

Disaster research response training workshop

The UW’s Department of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences is hosting a National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Disaster Research Response Workshop on the UW campus in 2022.

The initiative is supporting the planning and execution of this workshop, which is intended to improve preparedness to conduct rapid environmental and health-related disaster research that advances cumulative science and is responsive to community information needs.

Developing a concept of operations for disaster research response

The initiative supported development of a Concept of Operations (CONOPS) template to guide the collaborative development and implementation of Disaster Research Response among academic public health and public health agencies.

The proposed CONOPS, which was developed by researchers from the UW School of Public Health in partnership with the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, outlines actionable strategies to address DR2 issues before, during and after disasters for public health scholars and practitioners.

The template was published in Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness in October 2021.

Clinical Emergency Preparedness Research Network

The initiative supported the 2018 launch of the Pacific Rim Clinical Emergency Preparedness Research Network, a collaboration between researchers and practitioners from Kathmandu University, Tohoku University, the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium and the UW.

The network’s goals is to support health systems and providers to better link with communities to effectively prepare for and respond to emergencies.

Exploring an integrated research agenda

The initiative periodically convenes an interdisciplinary group of faculty members to explore, at a high level, what a more integrated, interdisciplinary research portfolio might look like at the University of Washington.