Evidence Aid Conference 2012


2nd Evidence Aid Conference, 29 – 30 October 2012, Brussels, Belgium

Watch the recordings of the conference by registering (free) here.

See photos from the Evidence Aid Conference 2012 here.

You can view the agenda for the conference here.

Speaker bios and photographs here.

PDF files of all the speaker presentations and posters at the bottom of this page.

>> Listen to Herman Von Rompuy, President of the European Council welcome the 2nd Evidence Aid conference

As disasters get more common and devastating, there is an acute need for improved access to the knowledge that will help ensure that interventions and actions do more good than harm. For many years, answers to practical medical and non-medical queries were more likely to come from experts than research. However, since the early 1990s, there has been growing awareness that individual expertise has its limitations. Alongside this, there has been a tremendous increase in studies investigating the effects of specific interventions and ‘evidence-based medicine (EBM)’ has arrived as a means to ensure that decisions and choices are informed by the systematic use of the best available, objective evidence, combined with expertise, values and preferences. This is also being applied in areas outside medicine, with the rise of ‘evidence-based practice’.

Evidence Aid is an international initiative improving access to systematic reviews on the effects of interventions and actions of relevance to natural disasters and other humanitarian emergencies, to improve health-related outcomes. Diarrhoeal diseases provide one example of the challenges that need to be overcome. These cause more than 40% of the deaths in disasters and refugee camp settings and systematic reviews have identified interventionsthat improve water quality and prevent diarrhoea, showing that interventions at the household level are more effective than those at the source of the water. This led to changes in policy, so that measures to safeguard the quality of water at the household level are implemented along with the provision of safe water in emergencies. The Red Cross, for instance, now includes a hygiene education component on the treatment and storage of water at the household level in the training that local Red Cross volunteers provide to affected populations. In the decade from 2005-2015, the inclusion of this household intervention in the emergency programme will protect the health of a substantial number of people affected by disasters, perhaps as many as nine million people around the world.

Professor Mike Clarke, one of the founders of Evidence Aid, from Queen’s University Belfast in Northern Ireland said “When disaster strikes, we need to know what works, what to avoid and what is unproven. Evidence Aid will make it easier for people planning and delivering the response to make sure that their interventions and actions are likely to do more good than harm.

Evidence Aid grew from the work of The Cochrane Collaboration, following the Indian Ocean tsunami of 26 December 2004. It is identifying the needs of decision-makers for reliable information of relevance to disasters and other humanitarian emergencies, matching these needs to existing evidence and finding ways to fill the gaps. The enthusiasm with which Evidence Aid was met by agencies involved in disaster risk reduction, planning, response and recovery, highlighted the need to bring together different stakeholders in the humanitarian sector.

The 1st Evidence Aid Conference in Oxford, England in September 2011, brought together more than 70 participants from a range of organizations and interests including United Nations aid agencies (UNHCR, Unicef and WHO), government organizations (US Center for Diseases Control and Prevention and UK Department for International Development), international NGOs (Oxfam and Save the Children), the Red Cross (International Committee for the Red Cross and Belgian Red Cross), publishers (Wiley-Blackwell, The Lancet, Public Library of Science (PLoS) and Research4Life) and academic institutions (Columbia University, Trinity College Dublin, and University of Oxford).

Building on the success of that conference, the 2nd Evidence Aid Conference was hosted by the Belgian Red Cross in the Novotel Airport Hotel, Brussels, Belgium on 29-30 October 2012, with a particular focus on disaster aid. Dr Philippe Vandekerckhove, CEO of the Belgian Red Cross, said “The Belgian Red Cross has made it a strategic priority to underpin all its activities with evidence, both its blood service and its humanitarian activities. We are therefore delighted to host this milestone Evidence Aid conference in Brussels”.

On the first day, speakers from different aid organizations highlighted the topics which, according to their field experience, are most urgently in need of policy advice through evidence-based research and practice. The second day zoomed in on the methods to provide this evidence. The challenge of balancing the need for gold standard evidence with the difficulties of achieving this in disaster settings was be tackled, along with the need to avoid abuse or devaluing of the ‘evidence based’ label.

The international expertise assembled for the conference included intense workshops which discussed these issues. They formulated a workable compromise between rigor and feasibility, and produced clear definitions for the use of the term and strategies for providing the evidence needed by decision makers.

The Evidence Aid conference was videoed live and can be watched, post-conference, via the webpage:  http://rdk.rs/evidence-aid-live-stream. The Twitter (@EvidenceAid) hashtag (#) #evaidconf2012 was used for messages related to the conference.


Speaker presentations:

Dr Satya Paul Agarwal – Priority setting: The viewpoint of the Red Cross.

Dr Amine Dahmane – Priority setting: The viewpoint of MSF.

Dr Roger Van Hoof – Priority setting: The viewpoint of military medicine.

Dr Bonnix Kayabu – What aid workers think of systematic reviews. The results from the Evidence Aid needs assessment.

Dr Prathap Thayran – Using systematic review findings to ensure good practice after the Indian Ocean tsunami.

Prof. Dr Philippe Vandekerckhove – Evidence-based first aid: Experience of the Belgian Red-Cross Flanders.

Dr Johan von Schreeb – Using evidence to improve the work of foreign field hospitals in sudden onset disasters.

Prof. Dr Michel Debacker – Data reporting in disasters / prioritisation of research questions.

Dr Paul Spiegel – How to undertake monitoring and evaluation in WASH and shelter in emergencies when there are insufficient measurable standards.

Dr Chris Lewis – Prioritisation and challenges of research into humanitarian health: a donor perspective.


Poster presentations:

Presenter: Emmy De Buck – The importance of involving the target population in guideline development: experiences from the development of evidence-based African prevention guidelines.

Presenter: Emmy De Buck – Evidence-based African first aid guidelines and training materials

Presenter: Nele Pauwels – Evidence-based guidelines versus systematic reviews: The application of evidence-based practice in an aid organisation

Presenter: Shari Krishnaratne – Systematic reviews in international development – closing the gap between evidence and policy.

Presenter: Shari Krishnaratne – Systematic review gapmaps – What?

Presenter: Racquel Simpson – Evidence-based disaster and emergency management – a shift in paradigm, philosophy and culture

Presenter: Katie Carmichael – Electric fans for reducing adverse health impacts in heatwaves

Presenter: Claire Allen – A rapid review process for Evidence Aid: Electric fans for reducing adverse health impacts in heatwaves.



Back to work report by Shari Krishnaratne (3ie).

22 January 2014: Brief Report – Second Evidence Aid Conference: Prioritizing Evidence in Disaster Aid. Published in Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness, volume 7, issue 06, pp. 593-596. Read the article here


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