José Cordero, head of the epidemiology and biostatistics department in the College of Public Health, was recently quoted in a story by The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine about the complications of counting casualties after natural disasters.
Sometimes, it can take months or even years for a disaster death toll to become fully known. Death counts can include drowning or factors like disruptions to medical care, infections from contaminated water or an injury from hurricane-proofing the roof in the days before the storm.
“There’s a difference in how you’ll respond to and prepare for disasters if more deaths were attributed to electrocution versus people not having power to refrigerate their insulin,” Cordero said. “Accurate data collection can not only lead to policy change, but change in how we design our interventions.”
Cordero, UGA’s Patel Distinguished Professor of Public Health, added that every disaster is an opportunity to improve data reporting, but responders must not lose sight of the human aspect of the work.
“When we’re talking about morbidity and mortality—the dots on a map—remember, those are people,” he said.