Key features of a trauma-informed public health emergency approach: A rapid review

Christina L. Heris, Michelle Kennedy, Simon Graham, Shannon K. Bennetts, Caroline Atkinson, Janine Mohamed, Cindy Woods, Richard Chennall, Catherine Chamberlain

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


COVID-19 is a major threat to public safety, and emergency public health measures to protect lives (e.g., lockdown, social distancing) have caused widespread disruption. While these measures are necessary to prevent catastrophic trauma and grief, many people are experiencing heightened stress and fear. Public health measures, risks of COVID-19 and stress responses compound existing inequities in our community. First Nations communities are particularly at risk due to historical trauma, ongoing socio-economic deprivation, and lack of trust in government authorities as a result of colonization. The objective of this study was to review evidence for trauma-informed public health emergency responses to inform development of a culturally-responsive trauma-informed public health emergency framework for First Nations communities. We searched relevant databases from 1/1/2000 to 13/11/2020 inclusive, which identified 40 primary studies (and eight associated references) for inclusion in this review. Extracted data were subjected to framework and thematic synthesis. No studies reported evaluations of a trauma-informed public health emergency response. However, included studies highlighted key elements of a “trauma-informed lens,” which may help to consider implications, reduce risks and foster a sense of security, wellbeing, self- and collective-efficacy, hope and resilience for First Nations communities during COVID-19. We identified key elements for minimizing the impact of compounding trauma on First Nations communities, including: a commitment to equity and human rights, cultural responsiveness, good communication, and positive leadership. The six principles guiding trauma-informed culturally-responsive public health emergency frameworks included: (i) safety, (ii) empowerment, (iii) holistic support, (iv) connectedness and collaboration, (v) compassion and caring, and (vi) trust and transparency in multi-level responses, well-functioning social systems, and provision of basic services. These findings will be discussed with First Nations public health experts, together with data on the experiences of First Nations families and communities during COVID-19, to develop a trauma-integrated public health emergency response framework or “lens” to minimize compounding trauma for First Nations communities.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1006513
Pages (from-to)1-39
Number of pages39
JournalFrontiers in Public Health
Publication statusPublished - 28 Nov 2022
Externally publishedYes


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