Policy analysis of disaster health management in China

Du, Weiwei (2010) Policy analysis of disaster health management in China. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Humankind has been dealing with all kinds of disasters since the dawn of time. The risk and impact of disasters producing mass casualties worldwide is increasing, due partly to global warming as well as to increased population growth, increased density and the aging population. China, as a country with a large population, vast territory, and complex climatic and geographical conditions, has been plagued by all kinds of disasters. Disaster health management has traditionally been a relatively arcane discipline within public health. However, SARS, Avian Influenza, and earthquakes and floods, along with the need to be better prepared for the Olympic Games in China has brought disasters, their management and their potential for large scale health consequences on populations to the attention of the public, the government and the international community alike. As a result significant improvements were made to the disaster management policy framework, as well as changes to systems and structures to incorporate an improved disaster management focus. This involved the upgrade of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) throughout China to monitor and better control the health consequences particularly of infectious disease outbreaks. However, as can be seen in the Southern China Snow Storm and Wenchuan Earthquake in 2008, there remains a lack of integrated disaster management and efficient medical rescue, which has been costly in terms of economics and health for China. In the context of a very large and complex country, there is a need to better understand whether these changes have resulted in effective management of the health impacts of such incidents. To date, the health consequences of disasters, particularly in China, have not been a major focus of study. The main aim of this study is to analyse and evaluate disaster health management policy in China and in particular, its ability to effectively manage the health consequences of disasters. Flood has been selected for this study as it is a common and significant disaster type in China and throughout the world. This information will then be used to guide conceptual understanding of the health consequences of floods. A secondary aim of the study is to compare disaster health management in China and Australia as these countries differ in their length of experience in having a formalised policy response. The final aim of the study is to determine the extent to which Walt and Gilson’s (1994) model of policy explains how disaster management policy in China was developed and implemented after SARS in 2003 to the present day. This study has utilised a case study methodology. A document analysis and literature search of Chinese and English sources was undertaken to analyse and produce a chronology of disaster health management policy in China. Additionally, three detailed case studies of flood health management in China were undertaken along with three case studies in Australia in order to examine the policy response and any health consequences stemming from the floods. A total of 30 key international disaster health management experts were surveyed to identify fundamental elements and principles of a successful policy framework for disaster health management. Key policy ingredients were identified from the literature, the case-studies and the survey of experts. Walt and Gilson (1994)’s policy model that focuses on the actors, content, context and process of policy was found to be a useful model for analysing disaster health management policy development and implementation in China. This thesis is divided into four parts. Part 1 is a brief overview of the issues and context to set the scene. Part 2 examines the conceptual and operational context including the international literature, government documents and the operational environment for disaster health management in China. Part 3 examines primary sources of information to inform the analysis. This involves two key studies: • A comparative analysis of the management of floods in China and Australia • A survey of international experts in the field of disaster management so as to inform the evaluation of the policy framework in existence in China and the criteria upon which the expression of that policy could be evaluated Part 4 describes the key outcomes of this research which include: • A conceptual framework for describing the health consequences of floods • A conceptual framework for disaster health management • An evaluation of the disaster health management policy and its implementation in China. The research outcomes clearly identified that the most significant improvements are to be derived from improvements in the generic management of disasters, rather than the health aspects alone. Thus, the key findings and recommendations tend to focus on generic issues. The key findings of this research include the following: • The health consequences of floods may be described in terms of time as ‘immediate’, ‘medium term’ and ‘long term’ and also in relation to causation as ‘direct’ and ‘indirect’ consequences of the flood. These two aspects form a matrix which in turn guides management responses. • Disaster health management in China requires a more comprehensive response throughout the cycle of prevention, preparedness, response and recovery but it also requires a more concentrated effort on policy implementation to ensure the translation of the policy framework into effective incident management. • The policy framework in China is largely of international standard with a sound legislative base. In addition the development of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has provided the basis for a systematic approach to health consequence management. However, the key weaknesses in the current system include: o The lack of a key central structure to provide the infrastructure with vital support for policy development, implementation and evaluation. o The lack of well-prepared local response teams similar to local government based volunteer groups in Australia. • The system lacks structures to coordinate government action at the local level. The result of this is a poorly coordinated local response and lack of clarity regarding the point at which escalation of the response to higher levels of government is advisable. These result in higher levels of risk and negative health impacts. The key recommendations arising from this study are: 1. Disaster health management policy in China should be enhanced by incorporating disaster management considerations into policy development, and by requiring a disaster management risk analysis and disaster management impact statement for development proposals. 2. China should transform existing organizations to establish a central organisation similar to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in the USA or the Emergency Management Australia (EMA) in Australia. This organization would be responsible for leading nationwide preparedness through planning, standards development, education and incident evaluation and to provide operational support to the national and local government bodies in the event of a major incident. 3. China should review national and local plans to reflect consistency in planning, and to emphasize the advantages of the integrated planning process. 4. Enhance community resilience through community education and the development of a local volunteer organization. China should develop a national strategy which sets direction and standards in regard to education and training, and requires system testing through exercises. Other initiatives may include the development of a local volunteer capability with appropriate training to assist professional response agencies such as police and fire services in a major incident. An existing organisation such as the Communist Party may be an appropriate structure to provide this response in a cost effective manner. 5. Continue development of professional emergency services, particularly ambulance, to ensure an effective infrastructure is in place to support the emergency response in disasters. 6. Funding for disaster health management should be enhanced, not only from government, but also from other sources such as donations and insurance. It is necessary to provide a more transparent mechanism to ensure the funding is disseminated according to the needs of the people affected. 7. Emphasis should be placed on prevention and preparedness, especially on effective disaster warnings. 8. China should develop local disaster health management infrastructure utilising existing resources wherever possible. Strategies for enhancing local infrastructure could include the identification of local resources (including military resources) which could be made available to support disaster responses. It should develop operational procedures to access those resources. Implementation of these recommendations should better position China to reduce the significant health consequences experienced each year from major incidents such as floods and to provide an increased level of confidence to the community about the country’s capacity to manage such events.

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ID Code: 47022
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Fitzgerald, Gerard & Hou, Xiang-Yu
Keywords: disaster medicine, disaster health management in China, disaster policy, policy analysis, health consequences of flood, case study of floods
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 15 Nov 2011 02:03
Last Modified: 21 Nov 2011 23:54

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