We hear the word “resilience” used to describe the health of disaster victims. Why?
Doctors don’t use the word “resilience” to describe their patients. When a patient leaves the hospital, they either are recovered, convalescing or impaired. They are not vaguely “resilient” to appendicitis, cancer or electrocution. And as a layperson, I want my grandmother to be safe, not somehow “resilient” enough to resist COVID, or ride out a hurricane.
I wholeheartedly reject the concept of resilience as it applies to disaster health risk. I do so for several reasons:
- The concept of resilient survivors is one of risk acceptance, not risk reduction. It perpetuates the need for response.
“Once risk becomes incidence, we have lost the battle!”
- Resilience-based language diverts public health from our own well-developed medical nomenclature for the natural history of disease that isn’t limited to “resilience” (e.g. bouncing back). Instead it includes: full recovery, prolonged impairment; permanent disability; or death.
- Resilience allows for the poorly-informed to maintain a stance that the “unfortunate victims” should be resilient enough to then be “saved” by the governmental rescuer (if they belong to the right party). It does not address fundamental raison d’etre for the state which is to protect its citizens. (the duty to protect)
- Resilience is a myth. Most disaster victims never return to pre-disaster levels without lingering economic, social, emotional, spiritual, health and environmental impacts.
I prefer to use the language of public health and medicine to describes these health-related issues.