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Defining, Describing, and Categorizing Public Health Infrastructure Priorities for Tropical Cyclone, Flood, Storm, Tornado, and Tsunami-Related Disasters

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 March 2016

Benjamin J. Ryan*
College of Public Health, Medical and Veterinary Sciences, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland, Australia Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service, Queensland, Australia
Richard C. Franklin
College of Public Health, Medical and Veterinary Sciences, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland, Australia World Safety Organization Collaborating Centre for Injury Prevention and Safety Promotion, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland, Australia Royal Life Saving Society, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Frederick M. Burkle Jr
College of Public Health, Medical and Veterinary Sciences, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland, Australia Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, Harvard School of Public Health, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Kerrianne Watt
College of Public Health, Medical and Veterinary Sciences, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland, Australia World Safety Organization Collaborating Centre for Injury Prevention and Safety Promotion, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland, Australia
Peter Aitken
College of Public Health, Medical and Veterinary Sciences, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland, Australia School of Public Health, Queensland University of Technology, Australia
Erin C. Smith
College of Public Health, Medical and Veterinary Sciences, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland, Australia School of Medical Sciences, Edith Cowan University, Perth, Western Australia, Australia
Peter Leggat
College of Public Health, Medical and Veterinary Sciences, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland, Australia World Safety Organization Collaborating Centre for Injury Prevention and Safety Promotion, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland, Australia Faculty of Health Sciences, Flinders University, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia.
Correspondence and reprint requests to Benjamin Ryan, James Cook University, 1 James Cook Drive, Townsville QLD 4811 Australia (e-mail:



The study aim was to undertake a qualitative research literature review to analyze available databases to define, describe, and categorize public health infrastructure (PHI) priorities for tropical cyclone, flood, storm, tornado, and tsunami-related disasters.


Five electronic publication databases were searched to define, describe, or categorize PHI and discuss tropical cyclone, flood, storm, tornado, and tsunami-related disasters and their impact on PHI. The data were analyzed through aggregation of individual articles to create an overall data description. The data were grouped into PHI themes, which were then prioritized on the basis of degree of interdependency.


Sixty-seven relevant articles were identified. PHI was categorized into 13 themes with a total of 158 descriptors. The highest priority PHI identified was workforce. This was followed by water, sanitation, equipment, communication, physical structure, power, governance, prevention, supplies, service, transport, and surveillance.


This review identified workforce as the most important of the 13 thematic areas related to PHI and disasters. If its functionality fails, workforce has the greatest impact on the performance of health services. If addressed post-disaster, the remaining forms of PHI will then be progressively addressed. These findings are a step toward providing an evidence base to inform PHI priorities in the disaster setting. (Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2016;10:598–610)

Original Research
Copyright © Society for Disaster Medicine and Public Health, Inc. 2016 

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