The earthquakes in El Salvador, Colombia, and Los Angeles produced significant and multidimensional environmental health impacts. Yet the structure of their relief efforts and nature of their impacts on environmental and public health differed substantially from one another. It may seem out of place to characterize a natural disaster such as an earthquake as successful, yet its environmental and public health effects are pervasive and extreme, making it necessary to analyze and qualify the success of relief and preparedness measures. This paper will therefore compare the qualities of environmental health practice and consequences in multiple earthquake relief settings, in an attempt to demonstrate the critical differences leading to a successful disaster response agenda with an emphasis on risk reduction.
[...] Their toll on public and environmental health can be devastating, but through a preparedness paradigm that emphasizes health promotion, communication and surveillance, earthquake damage can be controlled to protect the health of the community. Characterizing Earthquake Risks: Factor: Los Angeles: El Salvador: Colombia: homeless hospitals damanged respiratory coccidioidomycos available infections is density expenditure per capita of affected persons * All statistics not already cited within the text are attributable to the Pan American Health Organization (20). References: Peek-Asa, Corinne, et. [...]
[...] Despite the fact that no community can ever be earthquake the following comparisons will hopefully lead to a better understanding of what public and environmental health components should be in place to produce the best possible post-disaster outcome. The earthquake that hit El Salvador on January 13th measured 7.6 on the Richter scale, the equivalent of 199 tons of dynamite exploding. Its effects were severe, leaving 1,259 dead injured, and 1.6 million homeless or without establishment Overall of El Salvador's entire population was affected, with a mortality rate of 15 per 100,000 people, and in some areas a mortality rate as high as 100 per 100,000. [...]
[...] Although the Los Angeles earthquake was significant on the Richter scale, their focused and direct relief efforts helped alleviate and reduce its overall burden All three earthquakes led to devastating structural damage with both functional and health consequences. Structural damage is considered one of the hallmarks of earthquakes, and can serve as a catalyst between the physical and human impact. There are consequently many environmental conditions that propagate structural damage. For example, the deforestation and improper land uses in El Salvador leave the area prone to landslides and flash floods. [...]
[...] Even though the three earthquakes were extremely unique, this fact may have played a role in the great disparity among morbidity (57 for L.A., verses 1,259 for El Salvador and 1,184 for Colombia). A prequake assessment could delineate methods of avoiding medical personnel shortage, perhaps by training groups outside the full-time medical personnel in basic triage to alleviate some of the burden. Preventive health education in less complex disease care (such as pneumonia) would distribute some of the burden to the public, allowing more serious health issues to receive attention from medical professionals. [...]
[...] Earthquakes can leave communities in precarious positions, especially in terms of respiratory health, yet populations have the power to prevent a severe health impact through adequate preventive education both before and after the occurrence of an earthquake. Earthquakes can also present very direct environmental health effects through harmful pollutants. Building damage and landslides produce a significant amount of dust and debris that reduce air quality and increase air pollution. Especially if in close proximity to physical destruction, earthquake victims can encounter high exposures to various disconcerting pollutants. [...]
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