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Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats that impact disaster health research

Thomas D. Kirsch, MD, MPH, Paul Reed, MD, Kandra Strauss-Riggs, MPH, Lauren Sauer, MS


Objective: To characterize the strengths and weaknesses of the current status of disaster research evidence; and to identify potential interventions specific to the disciplines of medicine, public health, and social sciences.

Design: A mixed method study using nominal group technique and a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) analysis.

Participants: Subject matter experts (SMEs) in the fields of medicine, public health, and social sciences who are engaged in disaster research.

Results: The nominal group technique achieved 100 percent response rate. After coding and analysis, ten distinct disaster research evidence themes were identified: awareness; evidence quality; funding; human resources; interdisciplinary studies; politics; research process; research topics; sectoral collaboration; and “other.” Strengths in each area were limited but focused on quality and workforce pipeline. Weaknesses were limited funding and low research quality. Opportunities included improving methods and increased interdisciplinary collaboration. The threats most consistently identified were limited funding and political influences on disaster research funding.

Conclusions: Disaster research experts from three disciplines identified a number of barriers and facilitators to improving disaster-related research. The limited, inconsistent, and episodic funding and the politics related to it were the greatest and most common barriers. This weakness needs to be strategically addressed to significantly advance the field of disaster research.


disaster research, disaster research funding, SWOT analysis

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