From Community to Emergency Room

HongKong-giftOn October 30 Director Jennifer Leaning delivered a keynote at the Annual Conference on Disaster Preparedness and Response 2015: From Community to Emergency Room in Hong Kong. The conference was the culmination of the first year of Harvard FXB Center’s involvement in the Disaster Resilience and Response Program, a collaboration between the center, local universities, and the Hong Kong Jockey Club Disaster Preparedness and Response Institute. Leaning’s keynote outlined risks to the Hong Kong community and the importance of community engagement in disaster preparedness and response.

Following Leaning’s address, center Fellow Satchit Balsari, along with Rex Lam of Hong Kong University, presented preliminary findings of our scoping study, a mixed-methods needs assessment of Hong Kong that combined innovative sampling techniques with online surveys and in-depth interviews with government officials, responders, and civilians. This findings allow for the juxtaposition and integration of multiple viewpoints with the aim of helping authorities and academics chart the course most beneficial to the people of Hong Kong.

Findings from the scoping study were integrated into an FXB policy brief disseminated at the annual conference. The brief, Community Engagement in Disaster Planning and Response: Recommendations for Hong Kong, underscores that effective community outreach in disasters requires understanding community needs and vulnerabilities, framing appropriate forms of communications during routine operations, building trust through educational updates delivered by familiar institutions, and developing emergency warnings and instructions.

Also at the conference, Fellow Elizabeth Newnham chaired a session on disaster mental health and Satchit Balsari presented on the need to HongKong-JL-EN-SBprofessionalize the humanitarian disaster response sector.

Moving into the second year of the project, takeaway messages from the conference include the need for:

  1. Further community engagement in disaster preparedness and response
  2. More evidence-based practice in disaster mental health
  3. Continuing conversations about professionalizing disaster response

Finally, on October 29 Leaning delivered a keynote address at the Symposium on Disaster and Community Mental Health at Hong Kong University. Leaning explored community mental health in the context of disasters and highlighted population-based approaches to community trauma. Newnham presented as a discussant on culturally adapted evaluation and intervention within populations exposed to adversity.