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Post-Disaster Recovery and Social Capital  

Suzanne Vallance and Ashley Rudkevitch

Disaster scholarship has resurrected interest in social capital, and it has become well established that strong social ties—bonding capital—can also help individuals and communities to survive in times of crisis, as well as provide substantial and wide-ranging benefits on the long road to recovery. The theoretical tripartite of bonding capital generated in “close ties,” bridging capital developed through “associations,” and linking capital from possibly cool but nonetheless “civil” encounters is also reasonably well established. So too are the currencies of trust and reciprocity. Social capital is noted to be a potent resource capable of facilitating many benefits in terms of health and well-being, and it is considered fundamental to post-disaster attempts to Build Back Better in the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. Indeed, the idea of social capital has become almost synonymous with resilience. Nonetheless, it is also acknowledged that there may be disadvantages associated with social capital, such as tribalism, neoptism, and marginalization. Scholarship therefore paints a rather complex picture, and there is still considerable debate about what social capital is: what it does, where it comes from and where it goes, and for what purpose. Without denying the value of a celebratory approach that focuses on the benefits, it is concluded that there is a need for more attention to be given to the broader ideological contexts that may shape the generative and distributional effects of social capital, particularly as these underscore health and well-being outcomes post-disaster.

Article

Water Safety Plans  

Karen Setty and Giuliana Ferrero

Water safety plans (WSPs) represent a holistic risk assessment and management approach covering all steps in the water supply process from the catchment to the consumer. Since 2004, the World Health Organization (WHO) has formally recommended WSPs as a public health intervention to consistently ensure the safety of drinking water. These risk management programs apply to all water supplies in all countries, including small community supplies and large urban systems in both developed and developing settings. As of 2017, more than 90 countries had adopted various permutations of WSPs at different scales, ranging from limited-scale voluntary pilot programs to nationwide implementation mandated by legislative requirements. Tools to support WSP implementation include primary and supplemental manuals in multiple languages, training resources, assessment tools, and some country-specific guidelines and case studies. Systems employing the WSP approach seek to incrementally improve water quality and security by reducing risks and increasing resilience over time. To maintain WSP effectiveness, water supply managers periodically update WSPs to integrate knowledge about prior, existing, and potential future risks. Effectively implemented WSPs may translate to positive health and other impacts. Impact evaluation has centered on a logic model developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as WHO-refined indicators that compare water system performance to pre-WSP baseline conditions. Potential benefits of WSPs include improved cost efficiency, water quality, water conservation, regulatory compliance, operational performance, and disease reduction. Available research shows outcomes vary depending on site-specific context, and challenges remain in using WSPs to achieve lasting improvements in water safety. Future directions for WSP development include strengthening and sustaining capacity-building to achieve consistent application and quality, refining evaluation indicators to better reveal linked outcomes (including economic impacts), and incorporating social equity and climate change readiness.

Article

Prevention of Suicide  

Danuta Wasserman

Around 700,000 people take their lives each year worldwide. Suicide accounts for approximately 1.3% of all deaths and therefore represents a major public health problem. The global age-standardized suicide rate is 9 per 100,000 population, yet there are large variations among genders, ages, countries, and world regions. The stress–vulnerability model of suicidal behaviors has been proposed to explain how a diathesis, developed through the influence of genetic and neurodevelopmental factors in relation to perinatal, postnatal, and life experiences, interacts with different risk and protective factors that either decrease or enhance the individual’s level of resilience to stress and suicidal risk. Public health suicide prevention strategies include suicide means restriction, reducing harmful substance use, promoting responsible media reporting, public-awareness campaigns, gatekeeper trainings, school-based interventions, crisis helplines, and postvention. Mental health strategies comprise identification, treatment, and rehabilitation of persons in distress and at risk for suicide. Multicomponent strategies that use a combination of evidence-based methods from public and mental health sectors are recommended. Future work should aim at enhancing the quality of epidemiological data, improving the research on protective and ideation-to-action factors, expanding the quantity and quality of data coming from low- and middle-income countries, and evaluating the cost-effectiveness of different suicide prevention strategies.