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 Infrared satellite of a hurricane
A physician, nurse, or other health care worker checking information on a mobile tablet using a stylus

Welcome to Health and Disasters: Understanding the International Context

The health impact of disasters that occur outside the United States is similar to domestic disasters and can have important repercussions for U.S. communities and agencies, either because they now perceive a shared vulnerability and risk, or because a large diaspora exists in the U.S. that will demand information. This course for information specialists, librarians, and other related professionals looks at key actors and their roles and responsibilities in the international disaster community. The course also explores the types of information they may offer or require to respond to real or perceived needs, with a particular focus on health.

This self-paced course fulfills one of the requirements of the Medical Library Association (MLA) Disaster Information Specialization, Advanced Level. Students will earn four MLA Continuing Education (CE) credits. This program provides the opportunity for participants to expand their roles in providing information for disaster and emergency preparedness, response, and recovery.

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Continuing Education Credits

If you are taking this course for Medical Library Association credits, please register and complete the class through our free online registration system.

Note: After reviewing the information on this page, please be sure to complete the pre-course evaluation on the next page before continuing with the course.

Participants Who Have Found this Course Useful

Individuals who have previously benefited from completing this course include librarians and information professionals who are part of any number of institutions, academic health centers, private and not-for-profit hospitals, medical facilities, local and state government, health departments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and more.

Your constituents—the people who turn to you for information about the health impact of disasters—may include administrators, public health and medical professionals, academics, or the general public. As you progress through the course, we recommend taking note of the individuals and groups you consider as your constituents and their disaster information needs.

Topics Covered in this Course

This course is divided into the following sections. Use the Next and Back buttons at the bottom of the page to move through the course.

  1. An International Conversation about Disasters
  2. The Health Impact of Disasters
  3. Overview of International Disaster Management
  4. Who is Who in the International Disaster Community
  5. Using this Information in Your Work

Each section is a single page of content and activities that help reinforce the topics covered. For more information on additional ways to navigate the course, see the "Getting Around" section below.

Each section is summarized with key points, which are the most critical take-home messages of the material.

Throughout this course, the National Library of Medicine® will be referred to using the acronym NLM and the Disaster Information Management Research Center will be called NLM Disaster Health.

Learning Objectives

After completing this course, you will be able to:

  • Describe the health impact of disasters, particularly in an international context.
  • Explain disaster risk reduction and management practices in international disasters and public health crises.
  • Describe the breadth of the field and the variety of information needs your constituents may have with regard to disasters occurring outside the United States.

Using this Course

Getting Around

There are a variety of ways you can navigate this training. You can:

  • Click the Back and Next buttons at the bottom of each page to move through the material
  • Use the Menu button in the upper right corner of each page to access the main sections or contact support
  • Press the LEFT and RIGHT arrow keys on your keyboard to move through the material
  • Use a combination of the above methods to explore the course contents


At the top of each page, links will indicate where the current page falls within the overall course. You can also click these links to return to this homepage or to the section that contains the page.


Throughout the course, you will encounter links. Any link denoted with an External Link icon (Exit disclaimer) points to a resource outside of this course and will typically open in a new tab or window. All other links are to other areas within the course.

Additionally, clicking on an image will open a larger view of the image in a pop-up box within the page.

Getting Help

If you need assistance using this course or have questions or comments about any of the content presented here, please select the About / Getting Help option from the upper right menu.