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From The CriticsReviewer: Suzet M McKinney, DrPH, MPH (University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health)
Description: This book seeks to give a broad picture of emergency preparedness as it stands now, as well as strategies for how to improve preparedness in public health. The book describes preparedness work conducted at all levels of government and includes information that may be useful to new practitioners or persons working outside of the field of emergency preparedness who may have no knowledge of the field. However, this book gives a bit of a skewed view, as not all concepts and information are completely accurate.
Purpose: The purpose (according to the authors in the preface) is to help improve how we prepare for and respond to public health crises in order to decrease the morbidity, mortality, and suffering of those affected by large-scale disasters. These are worthy objectives. However, the book proposes a new field of study called "emergency public health." Emergency public health is not a field of study, as is emergency medicine; rather the field of study is public health. Emergency preparedness is a relatively new subspecialty of public health. The term emergency public health implies principles, strategies, etc., get applied to disaster situations when, in actuality, preparedness is done daily and builds capacity to ensure readiness to respond to disaster situations. The book has many gaps and inconsistencies in terms of explanations and appropriate context. These gaps/inconsistencies would not be apparent to students or those unfamiliar with the field, but would be disturbing to emergency preparedness practitioners who do this work daily.
Audience: From the authors' perspective, the book is targeted to practitioners. However, the particular specialty area is unclear (public health practitioners or emergency department physicians). While the authors and contributors all have public health degrees, their daily area of practice is medicine (for the most part), which limits their ability to discuss practical applications of the concepts from a public health perspective.
Features: The book covers potential disasters to which public health as a field might respond and historical perspectives of mitigation strategies and types of organizations that respond to disasters. The book also describes responsibilities of multiple levels of government in emergency response, as well as tools available for mitigation. What is best about the book is the approach of presenting information, using case studies to illustrate the information/strategy, etc., and further analysis of the case study. The most obvious shortcoming of the book is the lack of experience in the practice of public health by the authors and contributors. Some information in the book is severely outdated and/or incorrect and some strategies are completely unrealistic in the current public health environment. This is discouraging and unfortunate, considering this book is written for practitioners.
Assessment: I had high hopes for this book because the field sorely needs a book of this kind, particularly one written with public health and emergency management students in mind. However, as a public health practitioner with specialization in emergency preparedness, I was completely disappointed. I found incorrect and outdated facts, explanations that are completely incorrect and, in one case, conflicting information that is presented in two different chapters. The authors and contributors are surely all extremely knowledgeable in the clinical practice of medicine, but degrees in public health do not make one an expert (or even particularly knowledgeable) in the daily practice of public health and public health emergency preparedness. The value and quality of this book could have been significantly improved had the authors engaged actual public health emergency preparedness officials/practitioners who do this work on a daily basis. Such professionals would have been able to fill in gaps in knowledge and bring present-day context to many of the strategies and issues addressed in the book.