The Role of Environmental Health in Disaster Management: A Qualitative Study of Australian Experiences

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Even though environmental health is widely considered to be an integral component of disaster management, limited research on this topic has been conducted. Using a qualitative approach, the authors conducted in-depth interviews of practitioners in Queensland, Australia, to explore the role of environmental health in disaster management and determine how those internal and external to the profession perceive this role. The major themes that emerged described a process in which the “view of health” is socially constructed, and this process is instrumental in shaping perception of the environmental health role in disaster management. The authors also found that the role of environmental health in disaster management is experiencing renegotiation due to a complex process of challenging the socially constructed view of health, raising the profile of the profession, and achieving increased representation in disaster management. Ultimately, increased recognition and a heightened profile of environmental health will result in a more effective disaster management system and will carry over into day-to-day activities.

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