Noel Stevenson Research Scholarship: A/Prof Peter Aitken

Disaster Health Education in Australia – An Analysis of Current Status, Needs and Educational Strategies and the Development of Potential Future Models


Project Summary

Disasters have caused the loss of more than 12 million lives and affected more than 50 million people in the past 50 years alone. Disasters involve not just more patients, but a different type of patient in a system under extreme stress. Emergency Departments (ED), as the ‘front door’ to the health system are a key part of the disaster response and a well prepared ED is essential to save lives. Being prepared involves education and training however disaster health education is not well developed in Australia. The research program aim is the development of a disaster education framework for the health workforce in Australia. This framework will incorporate learning needs and identify strategies to meet them in a manner which is both cost and outcome effective. A key outcome will be development and evaluation of a post graduate qualification in disaster health consistent with this framework. The current state of education in disaster health in Australia will be reviewed including a comparison of strategies used, relative effectiveness and barriers to success. Common problems will be identified from literature and Australian experience to help target educational priorities. This will include ED and Australian teams deployed overseas, many of whom were ED staff. A secondary aim is development of a network to strengthen both emergency medicine response to disasters and disaster health research.


This program will benefit both emergency medicine and research capacity in Queensland. Management of disasters is a core component of emergency medicine, while poor preparedness has been associated with worse outcomes for both patients and staff. The identification and development of appropriate education and training helps build both capacity and capability through improved preparedness. Disaster health education, however remain underdeveloped internationally. This research fills a gap by addressing unique issues specific to the local and national environment and provides an opportunity for Queensland to play a lead role in the process. The program will also build research capacity through personal development of core research skills and establishment of research networks in disaster and emergency health. This will promote collaboration and future support for junior researchers

Leveraged Funds

- Western Australian Department of Health; Funding for Literature Review of Disaster Medical Assistance Teams
- Public Health Education and Research Program (PHERP) grant, RFT 233/0506 “Workforce Planning Models for Disaster Medical Response Teams”.
- Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage (Heatwaves) LP0883998
- ARC Linkage (Emergency Health Service Demand) LP0882650
- National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) (H1N1 and Emergency Departments) App 614290


Aitken, Peter (2015) Developing disaster health preparedness in Australia. PhD thesis, James Cook University

Aitken P, Leggat PA, Robertson A, Harley H, Speare R, Leclerq M. Education and training of Australian Disaster
Medical Assistance Team members: Results of a national survey. Prehospital and Disaster Medicine. 2011; 26(1):

Aitken P, Leggat PA, Robertson AG, Harley H, Spear R, Leclercq MG, Education and training of Australian disaster
medical assistance team members: Results of a national survey. Prehosp Disaster Med 2011;26(1) online In Press.

Aitken P, Leggat PA, Brown LH, Speare R. Preparedness for short-term isolation among Queensland residents:
implications for pandemic and disaster planning. Emerg Med Australas. 2010 Oct;22(5):435-41.

Leggat PA, Brown LH, Aitken P, Speare R. Level of concern and precaution taking among Australians regarding
travel during pandemic (H1N1) 2009: results from the 2009 Queensland Social Survey. J Travel Med. 2010

Seidl IA, Johnson AJ, Mantel P, Aitken P. A strategy for real time improvement (RTI) in communication during the
H1N1 emergency response. Aust Health Rev. 2010 Nov;34(4):493-8.


Amount Awarded


Grant Scheme


Principal Investigator:
A/Prof Peter Aitken

Prof Peter Leggat


Collaborating Institutions


  • Aitken, Peter (2015) Developing disaster health preparedness in Australia. PhD thesis, James Cook University

  • CONTACT US +61 7 3112 8668 Suite 1A 34 Sherwood Road Toowong, Qld 4066