Searching for the link between earthquakes and health

By on 12 June, 2012
The impact that last year’s earthquakes in Christchurch have had on people’s health in different parts of the city is being undertaken by researchers at the University of Canterbury.
The research is part of an initiative to support the health sector with improved service delivery following natural disasters.
Funded through the Cooperative Research Centre for Spatial Information (CRCSI), the research will investigate if people living in red zoned areas of town are suffering more health problems than those in other areas or if they are all equally affected due to the city-wide uncertainty of not knowing what will happen next.
Director of the GeoHealth Laboratory at the University of Canterbury and Professor of Gepgrapht, Simon Kingham, said geographical information systems will be used to estimate exposure to physical damage and community disruption, and spatial statistical methods will be developed on a neighbourhood level rather than city-wide scale.
“Since September 2010, the quality of life for residents of the greater Christchurch area has been severely impacted. It is not yet known, however, what the links are between stress-related health outcomes and the level of neighbourhood damage.
“In finding answers and understanding these relationships, we will be able to calculate the optimal targeting of health services following natural disasters,” he said.
Head of the Emergency Department at Christchurch Hospital and Professor of Emergency Medicine and, Mike Ardagh, supports the research.
"We don't understand the drivers of health demand following earthquakes, but suspect that vulnerable communities will be more affected. This research will help us target the provision of health care better in the future."
Director of CRCSI New Zealand at Land Information New Zealand, Mary Sue Severn, said it was a very exciting time for New Zealand members of the CRCSI with this, along with two other proposals, being funded.
”There has been two years of solid effort put in by many people to identify some priority areas of research and turn them into proposals and, happily, to get them across the line.”

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