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History of the Pacific Emergency Health Initiative (PEHI)

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History of the Pacific Emergency Health Initiative (PEHI)

Abstract

At the February 2000 meeting of the Pacific Island Health Officers Association (PIHOA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) proposed a regional strategy for promotion of emergency environmental health in the Pacific. This CDC Pacific Emergency Health Initiative (PEHI) called for a pro-active partnership of governmental institutions, international agencies, Pacific nations, the Pacific Basin Medical Association and PIHOA. The mission of PEHI is to "strengthen the capacity for emergency health preparedness and response among Pacific island nations". This article describes the history and development of PEHI and offers insight into future efforts.
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Objective:Environmental emergencies and disasters are becoming more frequent in developing nations. Between 1992 and 1996, disasters affected an annual average of 4.5 million Oceania residents. Unfortunately, public health planners in the region and responders throughout the world have little evidence on which to base measures of emergency preparedness. Indicators of preparedness must be identified, implemented and evaluated before the effectiveness of emergency planning interventions can be measured accurately. The aim of this study was to perform an objective evaluation of emergency preparedness among five nations in Oceania.Methods:A standardized retrospective review of national-level public health and institutional-level hospital emergency operations plans from a convenience sample of five Pacific nations or territories was performed. In addition, in-country interviews, observation of operations and review of documentation were conducted. The rates of affirmative responses to 957 yes/no queries in the questionnaire were tabulated according to major emergency operational planning concepts and categories of emergency support functions.Results:The study revealed remarkably low levels of emergency planning and preparedness among health and medical sectors of five Pacific islands.Conclusion:These data suggest a very low level of host national capacity for development of preparedness. Further investigation is necessary to define this need throughout this region of Oceania. See Commentary, page 143.