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University of Ulster disaster relief healthcare specialist Pat Deeny has been invited by the South Korean government to advise nurses educators and practitioners on healthcare in disasters at a major international Nursing conference in Daejeon, South Korea.

Pat, who is based at the University’s Magee campus in Londonderry, will focus on the care and support needs of vulnerable groups in disasters with specialist emphasis on the adaptation needs of older people. He will present findings from a comparative study carried in Sri Lanka and in the USA where findings in both countries highlight the needs of older people in relation to disaster response and preparedness.

An ever-increasing population worldwide means that older people are experiencing increased poverty levels, poor housing and increased levels of chronic illness and disability. This puts them at high risk from disasters.

As part of the World Health Organisation requirement for nurses to become more involved in disaster risk reduction worldwide, nurses are being asked to examine ways in which they can provide care and support for communities.

South Korea has a long history of dealing with disasters especially typhoons but recent developments in the north of the peninsula has meant that nurses have to rethink the nature of their education and research activities to focus more on chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear disasters. The threat of population displacement due to famine, disease and war are foremost in their plans.

Pat said: “It is a great honour to be sponsored by the South Korean government for this event. Nurse educators and researchers in South Korea are keen to develop the standard of preparation of nurses for key roles in disaster risk reduction. They are keen to participate more fully in the world stage of disaster nursing.

“I am particularly happy that they want me to advise on vulnerable groups such as older people because evidence points to such groups being overlooked by aid relief agencies and world governments. Our experience with disaster healthcare education and research means that we can make a valuable contribution. As a member of the organising committee for the World Society of Disaster Nursing conference to be held in Cardiff in 2012 the events in South Korea are a great stepping stone towards developing new education and research partnerships.”

Professor Brendan McCormack, Director of the Nursing Research Institute at the University of Ulster, said: “It is a genuine recognition of Pat’s international track record in nursing during times of disasters. Nursing at Ulster has been an active player in this work for a number of years and Pat has been at the forefront of these developments.  The quality of his work in this field was recently recognised when he was commissioned by The International Journal of Older People Nursing to lead a series of papers on disaster relief nursing and older people.  We are proud of his achievements and wish him continued success in this work.”