Professor Adenrele Awotona, director of the Center for Rebuilding Sustainable Communities after Disasters at the McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies, presented an invited Keynote Paper at the 2nd World Congress on Medical Sociology and Community Health (Medical Sociology 2017) in late September. The event, held in Atlanta, was a specially designed cluster conference organized around the theme “Integrating Medical and Social Science Approaches to Improve Community Health and Healthcare Delivery Systems.”
Professor Awotona’s keynote, “Environmental Health, Poverty, and Disaster Risk Reduction,” examined the public health consequences of the six key drivers of disaster risk, as identified by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction. The drivers include environmental degradation, poverty and inequality, poorly planned urban development, climate change, globalized economic development, and weak governance.
“In addition to lack of access to basic services such as health care, public transportation, communications, and infrastructure,” said Awotona, “we must look at other dimensions of inequality: the uneven distribution of income, political voice, social and economic status; and, housing quality, land tenure, and security.” Moreover, the presentation scrutinized the efficacy of the Inter-Parliamentary Union’s (IPU) Plan of Action for Making Millennium Development Goal Programs Disaster Resilient. The IPU, as an organization made up of national parliaments from 173 countries in the world, could be said to mirror world public opinion, as far as possible.
According to Awotona, disasters, ecosystem degradation, and weak livelihoods undermine the sustainable development of communities everywhere, particularly in the developing world. Hence, he recommends that the drivers of disaster risk should be addressed through multi-level government efforts, cross-sector initiatives, and global actions. “As we look at these drivers, we must analyze and find viable solutions to, among others, chronic unemployment and underemployment; political instability, official corruption, and an underdeveloped financial market; lack of a supportive institutional and policy environment; as well as unresponsive legal and regulatory frameworks,” stated Awotona.
Professor Awotona also served as a member of the conference’s Organizing Scientific Committee and co-chaired one of the sessions.
The conference covered a wide range of critically important, interdisciplinary sessions from basic research to the latest innovations in the field of community health and medical sociology—from health policies to addiction.