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May 9, 1986

Medical Consequences of Natural Disasters

JAMA. 1986;255(18):2500. doi:10.1001/jama.1986.03370180126049

This article is only available in the PDF format. Download the PDF to view the article, as well as its associated figures and tables.


Everywhere in the world potential exists for natural disasters: hurricanes on the Gulf coast, volcanic eruptions in Colombia, famine in the Sahel, tidal waves (tsunami) in Japan. Although the natural forces that generate such cataclysms are beyond human control, we can blunt their human effects by systems of preventive action through communication networks, community planning, and emergency response preparedness (evacuation plans, medical care, public health controls, and nutrition support).

The purpose of this short book (160 pages) is to provide blueprints for such preventive action, described largely in the context of the author's extensive professional experiences, accumulated over the past four decades. Preventive strategies are described in successive chapters for earthquakes, tsunami, floods, mudflows and avalanches, and famine, and then in more general terms for various stages of any disaster emergency with particular regard to medical care and public health actions. The book also contains a chapter on traffic injuries,