Resilience among disaster-affected communities in China

China experiences more natural disasters than any other nation. In 2011 alone, 159 million people were affected by disasters in China, accounting for 65.1% of global disaster victims. Although China’s large population and density of settlement compound the issues of disaster risk, relatively little is known about the impact of trauma on mental health outcomes in the region. The study aims to examine mental health, resiliency and development among children affected by disaster and their families.

This collaborative project conducted by faculty at UWA, Harvard School of Public Health and the Chinese University of Hong Kong aims to establish best practice for humanitarian response, a sophisticated understanding of the factors that impact community preparedness and resilience following disaster, and an optimal course of action for protecting vulnerable children. It comprises a longitudinal cohort study conducted in remote, disaster-prone areas of China. Children and the elderly are among the most at risk in disasters, and yet the evidence base on mitigation of impacts and protection of the vulnerable is in its nascence.  The study assesses disaster preparedness, risk and resilience, as well as physical health and mental health outcomes, child development and traumatic stress in multiple communities over a two-year period.

This research will provide innovative findings on the social determinants of health and protection in disaster-affected populations, and an opportunity for field operation skills training for students in research design, qualitative and quantitative methods, and rigorous analysis. Given the extent of emergency exposure in China and the broader Asia-Pacific region, the health and safety of children affected by disaster will become an increasingly critical issue and the findings have potential to inform evidence-based practice and policy in the region.


  • Harvard School of Public Health
  • Chinese University of Hong Kong
  • Hong Kong Academy of Medicine