Guiding public health in disaster management: New APHA Press book includes pandemic lessons learned

Date: Aug 31 2021

Contact: Media Relations, 202-777-3913

The COVID-19 pandemic and other disasters such as floods, wildfires, earthquakes and tornadoes in 2020-21 emphasized the need for sustaining the highest level of public health preparation, according to the APHA Press book, Landesman’s Public Health Management of Disasters: The Practice Guide, 5th Edition.

While catastrophes are not new, the book identifies weaknesses in the U.S. response to COVID-19 and other disasters, particularly considering their impact on vulnerable populations and widespread inequities.

The American Public Health Association is celebrating the 20th anniversary of The Practice Guide. Principal editor and author Linda Young Landesman, PhD, a nationally recognized expert in emergency preparedness, originated this landmark book in 2001, in the wake of the 9/11 and anthrax attacks.

Landesman authored the subsequent editions and led the team that co-authored the 5th edition. An instructor at the public health practice at the University of Massachusetts-Amhurst, Landesman said that “with each edition of the book, new and often more devastating disasters are experienced worldwide.”

About a third of the newest book focuses on COVID-19 and lessons learned, advances in the practice of preparedness and new challenges. These updates about how public health, health care systems and communities responded to both the pandemic and natural disasters underscore the need for better planning in the United States, at the highest level of preparedness. The new edition also includes the impacts of climate change on health and public health practice.

“One of the lessons of COVID is if there is a highly infectious disease anywhere in the world, we must be vigilant and take proactive steps,” Landesman said. “If you look at the countries which were most successful in containing COVID-19, they took proactive steps in suppressing the spread of the SARS-CoV2 virus almost immediately.“

Landesman characterized the pandemic and many other unforeseen catastrophes as Black Swan events, a term related to low-probability but high-consequence events.

“Thinking that catastrophes are rare and that they only happen to other people prevents us from taking the kind of actions needed to be better prepared,” she wrote.
The latest volume shows that “the nature and character of disasters has dramatically changed during the past two decades,” wrote Ali S. Khan, MD, MPH, MBA, dean of the College of Public Health at the University of Nebraska, in a forward.

“They are not just more frequent and deadly but also more costly to address due to changes in demography, such as larger coastal populations and patterns of economic development in risk zones, Khan added. “This coupled with unique consequences of vulnerable persons and communities increases the need for better disaster preparedness and response,” Khan said.

The American Public Health Association “is proud to publish this vital resource at a time of the worst global pandemic in 100 years,” said APHA Executive Director Georges C. Benjamin, MD. “The fifth edition of the Practical Guide was being updated when the COVID-19 pandemic began, and given the consequential impact the pandemic has had on public health practice, this fifth edition is also greatly influenced by the lessons learned by this disaster.”

Book information: Landesman’s Public Health Management of Disasters, 5th Edition, ISBN: 978-0-87553-321-6, softcover, list price: $99 (APHA member price $63.90). To order, call toll-free 888-320-APHA or visit the APHA Bookstore. Requests for a review copy should be sent by email to David Hartogs.



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