2016 APRU Global Health Case Competition

The Case

For the inaugural APRU Global Health Program Case Competition we encouraged teams to consider a balance of innovative yet realistic, evidence-based solutions. The plot in this case study is fictional and bears no direct reflection to any existing organization or individual. This case was created exclusively for use in the 2016 APRU Global Health Case Competition. Any reuse, reproduction, or distribution of this case material must be approved by the USC Institute for Global Health or APRU. For questions, please contact Mellissa Withers at mwithers@usc.edu.


Floods. Tropical storms. Earthquakes. Tsunamis. Landslides. Droughts. Natural disasters are on the rise worldwide. There are more and more intense natural disasters – which are defined to cause at least 100 deaths or to affect the basic survival needs of at least 1,000 people – resulting from floods and storms as well as droughts and heat waves. The Pacific Rim region is the most disaster-prone region in the world and has experienced some of the most damaging disasters in recent decades, with alarming consequences for human welfare. (ESCAP, 2013). Since 1970, countries in Asia and the Pacific have been hit by more than 5,000 disasters causing more than two billion fatalities and affecting the lives of more than six billion. For example, the Philippines is often devastated by typhoons, including the Super Typhoon “Haiyan” in November 2013 which killed over 6,000 people and displaced approximately 4 million people (NDRRMC: 2014). Earthquakes and tsunamis have wrought devastation over the period, with some of the worst events being the 1976 Great Tangshan Earthquake which killed almost 242,000 people in China, the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami that killed over 220,000, and, more recently, the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake that killed almost 20,000 people and affected the lives of around 369,000. There are many social, economic and environmental factors that determine the vulnerability, exposure and impact of a disaster on people or a country. Over the past 45 years, the region’s population has almost doubled from 2.2 billion in 1970 to 4.3 billion in 2014. Cities have expanded with the migration of people from rural areas in search of livelihoods and opportunities, with 47.7% of the population of the Pacific Rim region now living in cities compared to only 25.9% in 1970. Often the poor and the most vulnerable settle in hazardous areas such as flood plains or along fault-lines because the land is more affordable or it is the only land available in densely populated areas. In Asia-Pacific countries, economic losses increased by almost 15 times since 1970 while the region’s GDP only grew 5 times, suggesting that building resilience to disasters is likely a necessary condition for protecting region’s growth prospects (UNESCAP, 2015).

Key Points

Highlights from UNESCAP’s 2015 report Overview of Natural Disasters and their Impacts in Asia and the Pacific 1970-2014.

  • In the past decade alone, a person living in the Asia-Pacific was twice as likely to be affected by a natural disaster as a person living in Africa, almost six times as likely as someone from Latin America and the Caribbean, and 30 times more likely to suffer from a disaster than someone living in North America or Europe.
  • Over 2 million people died from natural disasters between 1970 and 2014 in Asia and the Pacific, or 56.6% of the fatalities globally. Earthquakes and tsunamis were the main cause of deaths, despite their relatively infrequent occurrences.
  • Six billion people from the region were affected by disasters over the same period, or 87.6% of people affected globally. Floods and drought were not the deadliest disasters but affected the highest number of people at 5 billion.
  • Economic loss from natural disasters surged significantly in the region from $5 billion in the 1970s to around $75 billion in recent years, or 28% of the global economic loss, to 51% more recently. Over US$ 1.15 trillion was lost from natural disasters during this 45 year period. Four types of disasters – earthquakes, tsunamis, floods and storms – were responsible for 91.8% of the total economic losses. 


Traditionally, governments in the Pacific Rim region have taken a reactive approach in dealing with natural disasters- focusing on relief and rehabilitation efforts. Recently, more attention has been given to the need to develop a more comprehensive approach of identifying hazards and mitigation strategies, building community resilience and integrated and coordinated response efforts. In order to reduce vulnerability to disasters and to decrease potential impacts of disasters on communities, it is important to better prepare communities for disasters and to Key Points Background USC Institute for Global Health http://globalhealth.usc.edu 2001 North Soto Street, SSB 312K global.health@usc.edu Los Angeles, CA 90033 MC 9239 T: 323.865.0419 F: 323.865.0103 increase communities’ resilience to natural disasters. Given that funds are more available for emergency response than preparedness and risk reduction, it is important that disaster risk reduction activities build better capacity among communities to withstand future disasters. Community-based disaster preparedness programs are an essential part of risk reduction activities. Communities can often contribute in meaningful ways. They have important knowledge on their communities’ hazards and vulnerabilities, as well as their strengths and resources. Involving communities in these plans can also be empowering and more effective. Potential approaches to community disaster preparedness may include educational campaigns, media campaigns, community-based trainings, and disaster simulation activities. Enhancing cooperation between all the stakeholders involved in disaster management, including national governments, disaster relief agencies, and local civil society groups is also recommended. 

The Challenge

Your team has been hired as consultants to UNESCAP to help prepare the most at-risk communities in Pacific Rim countries to prepare for, and respond to, natural disasters. You have been tasked with developing and presenting a detailed strategic plan to address disaster risk reduction and disaster preparedness in one country in the region over the next three years. Your plan should focus on disaster preparedness and community risk reduction at the community level. It should incorporate innovative, up-to-date, and culturally-appropriate strategies to address this issue. Teams should consider real-world opportunities and challenges and come up with a plan that they feel is realistic. Teams can choose one type of natural disaster or decide to focus broadly on all types of natural disasters. They can also develop a national plan or to focus on specific communities in the chosen country and can include many different activities or one major activity.

The plan should include:

  • an analysis of research related to disaster risk reduction and disaster preparedness in Pacific Rim countries
  • an analysis of the chosen country in terms of natural disaster and current state of disaster risk reduction and disaster preparedness activities, as well as a justification for why this country/community was chosen
  • a detailed description of the main program objectives, activities and expected results  a timeline of activities
  • specific short (Year 1), mid (Year 2), and long‐term objectives (Year 3 and beyond) and a detailed plan as to how these objectives will be measured
  • strategies to develop collaborations and combine resources with the local, national, and international non‐governmental organizations (NGOs), particularly those that are already working in disasters
  • a total budget of US$5 million for your chosen country for the three-year program

You will present your plan to UNESCAP representatives in a 14-16-minute video. Teams are encouraged to develop engaging and creative visual materials for the presentation but should make the presentation as if the team is making the presentation in front of an audience. Provide a link to the video on youtube or vimeo to Mellissa Withers via email to mwithers@usc.edu by 11:59pm PDST on June 1. At the beginning or end of the video, please provide a slide with full name, discipline of study, affiliated department and institution, and academic status as of May 2016 (e.g. undergraduate, graduate, etc.) for each team member. Teams should be comprised of 5-6 members. Please review our website for more details on eligibility criteria and judging- http://apruglobalhealth.org/casecompetition. This should be a student-driven activity with minimal input from faculty mentors.

REFERENCE: http://www.unescap.org/sites/default/files/Technical%20paperOverview%20of%20natural%20hazards%20and%20their%20impacts_final.pdf


Our Lady of Fatima University (1st Place):

Tohoku University:

University of Kyoto:

Additional Submissions:

Far Eastern Federal University:

University of Southern California:

University of California, Los Angeles:

University of Tokyo:

National Taiwan University:

UNSW Australia:

University of Malaya: