Today, The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) published our online article titled, “Creating Healthy Communities after Disasters”, which I co-authored with my colleagues Victor J. Dzau, MD, President of the National Academy of Medicine; and Nicole Lurie, MD, MSPH, the Former Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
We are all aware of the devastation cast upon the people and communities in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico from their respective Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. Additionally, the citizens of Mississippi also endured the consequences of Hurricane Nate.
As the Former Chair for the National Academy of Medicine’s Committee on Post-Disaster Recovery of a Community Public Health, Medical, and Social Services, I was proud of our Report titled, “Healthy, Resilient, and Sustainable Communities After Disasters: Strategies, Opportunities, and Planning for Recovery”.
We wrote this Perspective for the NEJM because it is critical that we translate our compassion for those who are suffering from the damage inflicted by the recent hurricanes into proactive pre-disaster planning for our own communities, wherever we live. Sadly, even though so many of our American communities are suboptimally healthy and their community infrastructures do not fully support the comprehensive elements required for healthiness, it is rare that we utilize the resources associated with rebuilding to explicitly create communities that are healthier than prior to the disaster. We urge clinical health professionals and public health leaders to translate their compassion for the current victims into proactive engagement with community leaders, citizens, disaster professionals and political officials to create plans that will improve the resilience necessary to cope with disasters and to realize shared visions for a maximally healthy community.