The Intersection of Emergency Management and Social Justice


Photo by Matt Hardy from Pexels

“When one man drinks while another can only watch, Doomsday follows.” – Turkish Proverb

I was recently involved in a conversation online where I was accused of making social issues into emergency management issues. My immediate response was “Yup, because they are!” Emergency Management and Social Justice interact in ways that are very important for Emergency Managers to understand.

Let’s be really clear here: This is not about personal beliefs. Nor is this about politics, or anything else. While this post definitely aligns with my personal beliefs, and has some serious political implications, this is about serious and real issues that deeply affect the resilience of people, families, and communities. The reality is that people who rank higher on the social determinants of health are more resilient and better able to recover after disasters.

This has a direct impact on how we, as Emergency Management Professionals approach prevention and mitigation, because it means that we have to take a much more holistic approach to our efforts. The World Health Organization defines the Social Determinants of Health this way:
“… the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age. These circumstances are shaped by the distribution of money, power and resources at global, national and local levels.”

When we consider that a key focus of Emergency Management is the distribution of resources during a time when resources are severely stretched, we can start to see why these would have such an impact on the work that we do. In order to begin to understand how it is that people are more resilient, we have to look at each of the areas covered under the Social Determinants in which a direct impact can be made:

  1. Income and social status
  2. Employment and working conditions
  3. Education and literacy
  4. Childhood experiences
  5. Physical environments
  6. Social supports and coping skills
  7. Healthy behaviours
  8. Access to health services
  9. Gender
  10. Culture

This list will inform a lot of the articles I’m writing over the next little while (along with my ongoing 52 Weeks/52 Books series), but while this is a good place to get started, I’ve likely reached the limit of your attention span, which means that these are food for other posts!

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