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Disaster Health. 2016; 3(4): 89.
Published online 2016 November 22. doi:  10.1080/21665044.2016.1263523
PMCID: PMC5325463

Toward an integrated understanding of disaster and risk ecology

As global disaster risks become increasingly interconnected, complex and non-linear, the need for intelligent, innovative theoretical models and analytical tools has never been as pressing as today. The same applies to forecasting and modeling instruments as well as scenario and narrative development techniques. For instance, the 2011 Great Eastern Japan triple disaster, comprised of a seaquake, a tsunami, coastal flooding events, a nuclear meltdown, and additional downstream impacts (such as forced displacement, ecosystem damage, economic failure, and large-scale mental health issues), is an impressive example for what could quickly become the new normal in disaster and risk science. Today's disasters seem to be multifaceted and cascading.

Disaster Health has aimed to highlight and mainstream a health perspective in disaster and risk science, balancing the public, physical, and mental health aspects, both from a clinical as well as a community and policy perspective. From its inception, Disaster Health has focused on the intersection of disaster mental health and disaster public health. Many of the journal's publications have admirably incorporated this nexus of physical and psychological health. This integration is seen as an important advance that effectively straddles disciplines that previously were disconnected.

However, this purposeful merger of major components of “disaster health” is best regarded as an important progression, but certainly not as an endpoint. While we believe this approach remains of high value in disaster science, we are convinced that the next frontier of interdisciplinary disaster and risk modeling is the inclusion of a social-ecological systems lens. Such a lens will inevitably include the various dimensions of health while at the same time giving due attention to the broader social-ecological risk landscape in which complex disasters tend to be embedded. As the Great Eastern Japan case shows, current disasters play out at the direct interface of geo-physical, ecological, and social systems, affecting all of them alike. This especially holds true against a backdrop of global climate change and other environmental tipping point scenarios, as well as an ever more fragile global landscape characterized by high levels of uncertainty, failing states and governance systems, and escalating security threats.

Therefore, we are moving onward following the completion of this third volume of the journal. As Disaster Health comes to conclusion with this issue, we are excited to announce the launch point for a new and more encompassing endeavor in the realm of disaster science publishing. We are actively conceiving the framework to allow for inclusion of new themes that build upon the bulwark of “disaster health” but extend beyond our current boundaries in important respects.

We especially call for a broader inclusion of the social sciences and humanities in what might become the cutting edge in disaster and risk analysis and modeling—we like to name it Disaster and Risk Ecology—for the benefit of our global society.

Articles from Disaster Health are provided here courtesy of Taylor & Francis