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Assessing the ripple effects of natural disasters on healthcare systems: a narrative review.

PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Natural disasters are on the rise, driven by shifts in climatic patterns largely attributed to human-induced climate change. This relentless march of climate change intensifies the frequency and severity of these disasters, heightening the vulnerability of communities and causing significant harm to both lives and socio-economic systems. Healthcare services are particularly strained during extreme weather events, with impacts felt not only on infrastructure but also on patient care.

RECENT FINDINGS: This narrative review explored the overarching impact of natural disasters on healthcare infrastructure. We delved into how these disasters impact diverse health conditions, the healthcare systems of low and middle-income countries (LMICs), the psychological toll on both clinicians and survivors, and the ramifications for end-of-life care.

SUMMARY: Natural disasters significantly impact healthcare, especially in LMICs due to their limited resources. Patients with cancer or chronic diseases struggle to access care following a natural disaster. Those in need for palliative care experience delay due to shortages in medical resources. Psychological consequences like posttraumatic stress disorder on disaster survivors and healthcare providers highlight the need for mental health support. Addressing challenges requires proactive disaster preparedness policies and urgent public policy initiatives are needed for optimal disaster response.

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