( By Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) )

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2.2 General overview of the health sector


Basic information should be collected in order to become acquainted with organization and structure of the country's health system.

This section deals only with issues. The disaster preparedness program's components, functions, or specific contingency plans are covered in Chapter 3.

The information gathered on key elements of the health sector will allow us:

To identify the health sector's response capability in disaster situations;
To make an inventory of the participating institutions in disaster preparedness and relief;
To determine the health system's coverage of populations in urban and/or rural areas.

Checklist of basic points:

National health policy and legislation for disasters

Organization of the health sector at the national, regional, and local levels

Organization and structure of the Ministry of Health in terms of coping with disaster situations,

Key questions:

Is there a national health policy regarding disaster preparedness and relief?

To what degree are the health authorities committed to promoting disaster preparedness?

What types of legal provisions exist?

Have building codes been adopted at the national level for design and construction techniques that will reduce the effects of natural hazards in health care facilities?

How is the health system organized at the national, regional, and local levels?

Is there an office or technical unit within the Ministry of Health in charge of promoting, developing, and coordinating disaster preparedness activities?

Where is it located in the organizational chart? What level of authority has been delegated to this office?

Does the technical unit located in the Ministry of Health have a budget for the development of activities? What percent does this represent of the total Ministry of Health's budget?

Are there special provisions for using these funds in an emergency situation?

Is the officer charge of the unit a full-time or part-time employee?

How many health institutions participate in disaster preparedness activities?

How are these institutions distributed at the national, regional, and local levels?

Do health institutions have designated officers in charge of disaster preparedness activities at each level?

Sources of information:

Information should be collected by direct interview with the health authorities of the Ministry of Health, selected UN agencies, and from executives of main governmental and private institutions and other organizations providing health services nationwide.

Due to time limitations, it may be necessary to prepare a concise questionnaire which should he filled in by authorities.

Following the eruption of Nevado del Ruiz in Colombia, the injured had to be airlifted to health facilities in neighboring cities. (Photo: Vizcarra, PAHO/WHO)

Summary of findings:

The collected information must be analyzed. Particular attention should be paid to the Ministry of Health's organization and structure, budget, and potential response capacity. A list of health institutions, organizational charts, and available infrastructure can be attached to the evaluation document.

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