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Challenges in Disaster Data Collection during Recent Disasters

  • Melinda Morton (a1) (a2) and J. Lee Levy (a1) (a2)


Gathering essential health data to provide rapid and effective medical relief to populations devastated by the effects of a disaster-producing event involves challenges. These challenges include response to environmental hazards, security of personnel and resources, political and economic issues, cultural barriers, and difficulties in communication, particularly between aid agencies. These barriers often impede the timely collection of key health data such as morbidity and mortality, rapid health and sheltering needs assessments, key infrastructure assessments, and nutritional needs assessments. Examples of these challenges following three recent events: (1) the Indian Ocean tsunami; (2) Hurricane Katrina; and (3) the 2010 earthquake in Haiti are reviewed. Some of the innovative and cutting-edge approaches for surmounting many of these challenges include: (1) the establishment of geographical information systems (GIS) mapping disaster databases; (2) establishing internet surveillance networks and data repositories; (3) utilization of personal digital assistant-based platforms for data collection; (4) involving key community stakeholders in the data collection process; (5) use of pre-established, local, collaborative networks to coordinate disaster efforts; and (6) exploring potential civil-military collaborative efforts. The application of these and other innovative techniques shows promise for surmounting formidable challenges to disaster data collection.


Corresponding author

Correspondence: Melinda J. Morton MD, MPH, Captain, US Army Department of Emergency MedicineJohns Hopkins University School of Medicine, 600 N. Wolfe St.Baltimore, MD 21205 USA E-mail:


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Challenges in Disaster Data Collection during Recent Disasters

  • Melinda Morton (a1) (a2) and J. Lee Levy (a1) (a2)


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