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Revista Panamericana de Salud Pública

Print version ISSN 1020-4989

Abstract

LOPEZ TAGLE, Elizabeth  and  SANTANA NAZARIT, Paula. The 2010 earthquake in Chile: the response of the health system and international cooperation. Rev Panam Salud Publica [online]. 2011, vol.30, n.2, pp. 160-166. ISSN 1020-4989.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S1020-49892011000800008.

OBJECTIVE: Understand the health system and international cooperation response to the catastrophic situation left by the earthquake and tsunami of 27 February 2010 in Chile, and draft proposals for improving strategies to mitigate the devastating effects of natural disasters. METHODS: Descriptive and qualitative study with a first phase involving the analysis of secondary information-such as news articles, official statements, and technical reports-and a second phase involving semistructured interviews of institutional actors in the public health sector responsible for disaster response and users of the health system who acted as leaders and/or managers of the response. The study was conducted between May and October 2010, and information-gathering focused on the Maule, Bío Bío, and Metropolitan regions. RESULTS: Procedures for recording, distributing, and controlling donations were lacking. The health services suffered significant damage, including the complete destruction of 10 hospitals. The presence of field hospitals and foreign medical teams were appreciated by the community. The family health model and the commitment of personnel helped to ensure the quality of the response. While public health management was generally good, problems dealing with mental health issues were encountered due to a lack of local plans and predisaster simulations. The poor were the most affected. Women became social leaders, organizing the community. CONCLUSIONS: Although the health response to the emergency was satisfactory, both the health system and the mobilization of international assistance suffered from weaknesses that exacerbated existing inequities, revealing the need for multisectoral participatory mitigation plans for better disaster preparedness.

Keywords : Disaster planning; earthquakes; relief work; international assistance in disaster; health systems; international cooperation; Chile.

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