Article

Disasters

Ted Bober

in Social Work

ISBN: 9780195389678
Published online May 2011 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195389678-0074
Disasters

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Disasters are complex interactions between nature, the human-built environment, and social processes that significantly harm people and their sustainable environment. Compared to emergency events, disasters usually overwhelm the affected community’s resources and capacities to respond to all the needs of survivors. Though some disasters are highly publicized events, on average approximately five hundred disasters occur on the planet each year. Most disasters are not widely reported in North America, and yet since the turn of the 21st century over a third of the earth’s population was affected by a disaster. Disasters are best understood as dynamic processes that are evolving with our rapid population growth, urbanization, increasing reliance on complex technologies, and other environmental challenges. Post-disaster recovery may range from short-lived distress to longer-term physical and psychosocial consequences. For the most part, the normal human response to extreme stressful events is resiliency and adaptation. Resilience and recovery are sustainable when outside support replenishes vital lost or damaged resources. However, postdisaster well-being is affected by many variables, including sociopolitical factors and historical “patterns of neglect.” Personal and local vulnerabilities and resources are often not distributed equally among individual children, families, communities, or countries. Most disaster research is often focused on a type of disaster (e.g., hurricanes, tsunamis) and has been carried out by specialists such as geophysicists or mental-health professionals. Social workers have three strong pillars to meet the challenge of disasters: a history of working with individuals, families, communities, and society as a whole; a deep theoretical and applied knowledge of health promotion, prevention, and treatment strategies; operational and practical tools such as compassionate listening, research, and clinical intervention skills; and experience with policy making, community building, and advocacy. Social workers are well positioned to work with disasters and the diverse public and scientific community. The following entry will provide a good foundation for social work students, researchers, clinicians, and policy makers.

Article.  9572 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

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