With Hurricane Katrina and the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, disaster preparedness and response have become hot topics in the American policy agenda. For Dr. David Claborn, professor of public health and homeland security, these events provide a context for teaching his students how to plan for and address health threats during disasters.
“For instance, there were several environmental threats to public health after Hurricane Katrina, including hazardous material spills, extreme temperature exposure and water contamination,” said Dr. Claborn.
Prior to teaching at Missouri State University, Dr. Claborn served 20 years with the United States Navy as a medical entomologist. Entomology refers to the study of insects within a variety of contexts, such as ecology, forensic science and public health.
While his early research interests focused on the effects of non-native species on environments, Dr. Claborn soon began to explore how to control vector-borne diseases as well as illnesses transmitted during times of disaster. Some of his past studies include the control of dengue hemorrhagic fever in Venezuela and a risk assessment of disease importation by returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan.
It is this background that Dr. Claborn brings to the classroom as he teaches courses on environmental health, international health, infectious disease and homeland security.
“These may seem like unrelated subjects, but in my opinion, there is a great deal of overlap,” said Dr. Claborn. “The environmental health course identifies environmental threats to public health; the homeland security course reviews planning methods for addressing those threats at the population level.”
Like most public health professionals, Dr. Claborn understands the importance of community involvement in understanding, addressing and evaluating public health issues.
“We must be conversant not only with what we as professionals perceive as threats to the public health but also with what the population perceives,” said Dr. Claborn. “Involvement in the community not only provides an opportunity to address public health issues, it also improves communication to ensure that the two-way flow of information is effective in identifying and addressing real public health issues.”