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ADVANCE Perspective: Physical Therapy & Rehab Medicine

CSM Preview: Disaster Relief

Published February 3, 2011 8:00 AM by Danielle Bullen

by Lisa Lombardo

The slow and painful recovery of conditions in Haiti, one year following the massive earthquake that rocked the country, have been highlighted in the international news recently. The nation is still hurting for basic needs like housing and fresh water supplies, and also for regular medical care. One story harrowingly described packed conditions in a tent community that still is full.

Since the Haiti disaster hit the population there particularly hard, we have had many reports of PTs and PTAs headed overseas to see how they can help with relief efforts. Given the poor medical provisions the country sustains, many felt their expertise in helping amputees and people with severely injured limbs could especially be needed.

A year later, they still are. One writer, Marcia Veach, PTA, just sent us another report of efforts to help. In 2010 we covered efforts by therapists to deliver not only services, but also large amount of equipment such as wheelchairs, crutches, braces and other tools for rehab that the people of Haiti would have no access to. The efforts are widespread and often come not only from major international organizations, but also from independent therapists, clinics and rehab departments who want to do what they can to help.

Disaster aftermaths such as Haiti's have drawn new and broad sweeping attention to the value of rehabilitation services in disaster relief efforts. In the past, it has been uncommon for government or non-government organizations to use physical therapists in disaster relief efforts.

"The Role of Physical Therapy in Disaster Relief: Lessons Learned after Katrina and Haiti," sponsored by the Health Policy and Administration section, will be held at the APTA Combined Sections Meeting on Thursday Feb. 10.

The session aims to outline the potential role of physical therapists in disaster relief situations by focusing on lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina and the Haiti earthquake. Responses to Hurricane Katrina and Haiti's earthquake will be used as case studies to try and answer some of these questions. PTAs and PTAs who have been involved can describe their relief efforts post-disaster and how rehab services were used. Therapists who also assisted following Hurricaine Katrina in Louisiana and Mississippi will also describe the potential role for PTs.


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