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Free Online CE: Health and Disasters: Understanding the International Context

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"Health and Disasters: Understanding the International Context" is an advanced course and part of the Disaster Information Specialization Program.

Every disaster is a national disaster. Yet the health impact of disasters that occur outside the United States are similar to domestic disasters and can have important repercussions for US communities and agencies, either because of they now perceive a shared vulnerability and risk or because a large diaspora exists in the US that will demand information. This four-hour course for information specialists, librarians, and other related professionals looks at who's who (and why) in the international disaster community, their roles and responsibilities in pre- and post-disaster situations, and the type of information that they may offer or require to respond to real or perceived needs, with a particular focus on health. Class exercises will focus on finding appropriate sources of information to respond to client requests. Key websites will be reviewed and an extensive bibliography provided. This project is funded by a contract with the Disaster Information Management Research Center, Specialized Information Services Division, National Library of Medicine.

Register Now
Individuals can now register to view the original program on-demand. Register, participate, and earn 4 MLA CE contact hours. Registration and resources are available at the Disaster Information Management Research Center at the National Library of Medicine.


Course Instructors


John Scott John Scott

John Scott founded and directs the Center for Public Service Communications whose mission is to provide guidance and expertise to individuals, communities, and public sector organizations in the specialized field of applying telecommunications and information technologies to reduce health disparities, to improve health services to underserved and disenfranchised individuals and communities, and to improve the collection and sharing of scientific, technical, and community knowledge to reduce human vulnerability to natural hazards. Scott's international work experience includes the Americas, Africa, Southeast Asia, the Caribbean, China, Western Europe, the Pacific, and the former Soviet Union.

Currently, Scott is writing a disaster risk reduction handbook for mayors on behalf of the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR) and its "Making Cities Resilient" campaign. He is executive director of the Refugee Health Information Network (RHIN) and is a member of the National Advisory Committee on Cultural Competency for Disaster Preparedness and Crisis Response (of the US Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health). He has been a senior advisor on early warning and disaster health information to institutions including the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)/World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the US Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), and the National Library of Medicine (NLM). From 2001-2005, Scott was executive director of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) President's Task Force on Health Information and Technology. He was also founder, in 1993, of the US Congressional Steering Committee on Telehealth and Health Information Technology and coordinated that group for ten years.

Scott has worked for many years on disaster risk reduction programs internationally, with the UN, and the United States. On behalf of the UN Department of Humanitarian Affairs, he wrote the concept paper and was first project manager for ReliefWeb, which has become a principal site for sharing of disaster-related information. He was principal investigator of the needs assessment for a South-East Asia Disaster Health Information Network after the 2004 tsunami, on behalf of the WHO South East Asia Regional Office and was one of the principal developers of the Central American Network for Disaster Health Information (CANDHI). He organized and chaired the First International Conference on Disaster Communications, in 1989, on behalf of the UN Disaster Relief Organization and was a founding member of the UN's Working Group on Emergency Telecommunications. He coordinated development efforts for an initiative to provide health information and knowledge management support to the government of Haiti after the January 2010 earthquake, on behalf of the collaborative effort of the PAHO and NLM. Scott is currently working to establish an Indigenous Advisory Group on Disaster Risk Reduction with support from the PAHO, the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, and the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

Scott is an enrolled member of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska.


Patricia BittnerPatricia Bittner

Patricia Bittner is a professional disaster preparedness and risk reduction manager, with a particular focus on health. She joined the Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Relief Program of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) regional office for the Americas of the World Health Organization (WHO), in 1985 and led a team responsible for developing and maximizing the impact of strategic partnerships, mobilizing resources and engaging in advocacy for disaster preparedness, risk reduction, and response in Latin America and the Caribbean. In this role, she coordinated and negotiated with organizations and agencies (bilateral and private sector) to ensure stable and consistent funding for all regional risk reduction and response initiatives. She also served as the executive editor of the newsletter Disasters: Preparedness and Mitigation in the Americas for twenty-two years, authored numerous articles and publications on all aspects of health and disasters, and spoke at global symposiums and forums.

In 2007/08, Bittner was seconded to UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction to develop an information package and audiovisual material to launch the World Disaster Reduction Campaign on Hospitals Safe from Disasters (2008/09). Subsequently, she worked with WHO headquarters in Geneva and its regional and offices (New Delhi, India; Cairo, Egypt; Bangkok, Thailand) to adapt the material to their regions and develop an advocacy and communication strategy for safe hospitals.

Since leaving PAHO/WHO in late 2010, she has served as technical editor of publications on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Disaster Situations; Mainstreaming the Needs of the Elderly in Disaster Situations in the Caribbean; and the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction's How to Make Cities More Resilient: A Handbook for Local Government Leaders, including the development of a web-based Toolkit on disaster risk reduction and sustainable development for partner cities in the global campaign "Making Cities Disaster Resilient."

Currently, through the Center for Public Service Communications, she is developing a Spanish-language web-based information portal on health and disasters, including risk reduction and humanitarian relief.






For more information, contact Debra Cavanaugh, 312.419.9094 x32.

This project is funded by the National Library of Medicine under contract HHS-N-276-2010-00782-P.


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