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Tackling Life Threatening Illnesses Through Emergency Medical Systems

April 08, 2022
by Sharon Chekijian

The war in Ukraine has created not only traumatic injuries to soldiers and civilians, but it has also created a refugee crisis for more than three million people. While Ukraine remains in the front of our minds, activists have drawn attention to the myriad of other largely under-reported complex humanitarian crisis in recent history from the 44-day war in Nagorno Karabagh to Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Venezuela and North Korea. These crises are marked by exacerbation of both acute and untreated chronic health conditions. Attention must be paid not only to injuries, but to flare-ups of infectious diseases including COVID-19, cholera, and typhoid when crowding and unsanitary conditions develop. Displacement and disruption of services such as refrigeration, water, or sanitation add to this burden. In addition, attention to mental health and prevention for both pediatric and adult populations is tantamount.

Traditionally, global health policy has relied on a model of vertically oriented programs that focused on certain issues or conditions, such as maternal/child health or HIV. However, vertical programs discourage the development of strong healthcare delivery systems. This can be especially dangerous for acute life-threatening illness or in the setting of mass casualties or natural disasters.

Emergency medical care (EMC) focuses on providing timely care to victims of sudden and life-threatening injuries or emergencies to avoid death or disability. Globally, EMC is in various stages of development ranging from rudimentary care to hospital-based stabilization and intensive care unit support. The World Health Organization (WHO) has made EMC a priority and mandated Ministries of Health worldwide to plan for systems improvements. According to WHO Resolution 72.16, “ensuring early recognition of acute conditions (such as trauma, stroke and myocardial infarctions) and timely access to needed care, organized emergency care systems saves lives and amplifies the impact of many other parts of the health system…and are therefore, a key mechanism for achieving a range of Sustainable Development Goal targets, including those on universal health coverage, road safety, maternal and child health, noncommunicable diseases, infectious diseases, disasters and violence.”

The Yale Institute for Global Health Faculty Network Program has recently launched the Yale Emergency, Critical Care and Disaster Medicine Network (ECCDM) under the leadership of Sharon Chekijian, MD, MPH, Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine. ECCDM is an interprofessional group of Yale faculty focused on tackling acute life-threatening illness via emergency medical systems development and educational program development. The work of the Network encompasses trauma prevention and care, injury prevention, critical care (medical, surgical, and pediatric) and disaster preparedness and response. Our collaborative Network aims to improve response, care, and educational efforts with our global partners.

To learn more about ECCDM or to join the Network, please contact Dr. Chekijian. To contribute to our partner organization involved in response to complex humanitarian crisis please visit:

Submitted by Alyssa Cruz on April 08, 2022