Developing a Nuclear Global Health Workforce Amid the Increasing Threat of a Nuclear Crisis

Frederick M. Burkle, Cham E. Dallas

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


This study argues that any nuclear weapon exchange or major nuclear plant meltdown, in the categories of human systems failure and conflict-based crises, will immediately provoke an unprecedented public health emergency of international concern. Notwithstanding nuclear triage and management plans and technical monitoring standards within the International Atomic Energy Agency and the World Health Organization (WHO), the capacity to rapidly deploy a robust professional workforce with the internal coordination and collaboration capabilities required for large-scale nuclear crises is profoundly lacking. A similar dilemma, evident in the early stages of the Ebola epidemic, was eventually managed by using worldwide infectious disease experts from the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network and multiple multidisciplinary WHO-supported foreign medical teams. This success has led the WHO to propose the development of a Global Health Workforce. A strategic format is proposed for nuclear preparedness and response that builds and expands on the current model for infectious disease outbreak currently under consideration. This study proposes the inclusion of a nuclear global health workforce under the technical expertise of the International Atomic Energy Agency and WHO's Radiation Emergency Medical Preparedness and Assistance Network leadership and supported by the International Health Regulations Treaty. Rationales are set forth for the development, structure, and function of a nuclear workforce based on health outcomes research that define the unique health, health systems, and public health challenges of a nuclear crisis. Recent research supports that life-saving opportunities are possible, but only if a rapidly deployed and robust multidisciplinary response component exists.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)129-144
Number of pages16
JournalDisaster medicine and public health preparedness
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • foreign medical teams
  • international agencies
  • nuclear disasters
  • nuclear weapons
  • public health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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