Disaster Management in Rural and Remote Primary Health Care: A Scoping Review

Katie A. Willson, Gerard J. Fitzgerald, David Lim

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Objective: This scoping review aims to map the roles of rural and remote primary health care professionals (PHCPs) during disasters. Introduction: Disasters can have catastrophic impacts on society and are broadly classified into natural events, man-made incidents, or a mixture of both. The PHCPs working in rural and remote communities face additional challenges when dealing with disasters and have significant roles during the Prevention, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery (PPRR) stages of disaster management. Methods: A Johanna Briggs Institute (JBI) scoping review methodology was utilized, and the search was conducted over seven electronic databases according to a priori protocol. Results: Forty-one papers were included and sixty-one roles were identified across the four stages of disaster management. The majority of disasters described within the literature were natural events and pandemics. Before a disaster occurs, PHCPs can build individual resilience through education. As recognized and respected leaders within their community, PHCPs are invaluable in assisting with disaster preparedness through being involved in organizations' planning policies and contributing to natural disaster and pandemic surveillance. Key roles during the response stage include accommodating patient surge, triage, maintaining the health of the remaining population, instituting infection control, and ensuring a team-based approach to mental health care during the disaster. In the aftermath and recovery stage, rural and remote PHCPs provide long-term follow up, assisting patients in accessing post-disaster support including delivery of mental health care. Conclusion: Rural and remote PHCPs play significant roles within their community throughout the continuum of disaster management. As a consequence of their flexible scope of practice, PHCPs are well-placed to be involved during all stages of disaster, from building of community resilience and contributing to early alert of pandemics, to participating in the direct response when a disaster occurs and leading the way to recovery.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)362-369
Number of pages8
JournalPrehospital and Disaster Medicine
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021


  • disasters
  • health services
  • primary health care
  • rural health


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