Systematic media review: A novel method to assess mass-trauma epidemiology in absence of databases-A pilot-study in Rwanda

PLoS One. 2021 Oct 13;16(10):e0258446. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0258446. eCollection 2021.


Objective: Surge capacity refers to preparedness of health systems to face sudden patient inflows, such as mass-casualty incidents (MCI). To strengthen surge capacity, it is essential to understand MCI epidemiology, which is poorly studied in low- and middle-income countries lacking trauma databases. We propose a novel approach, the "systematic media review", to analyze mass-trauma epidemiology; here piloted in Rwanda.

Methods: A systematic media review of non-academic publications of MCIs in Rwanda between January 1st, 2010, and September 1st, 2020 was conducted using NexisUni, an academic database for news, business, and legal sources previously used in sociolegal research. All articles identified by the search strategy were screened using eligibility criteria. Data were extracted in a RedCap form and analyzed using descriptive statistics.

Findings: Of 3187 articles identified, 247 met inclusion criteria. In total, 117 MCIs were described, of which 73 (62.4%) were road-traffic accidents, 23 (19.7%) natural hazards, 20 (17.1%) acts of violence/terrorism, and 1 (0.09%) boat collision. Of Rwanda's 30 Districts, 29 were affected by mass-trauma, with the rural Western province most frequently affected. Road-traffic accidents was the leading MCI until 2017 when natural hazards became most common. The median number of injured persons per event was 11 (IQR 5-18), and median on-site deaths was 2 (IQR 1-6); with natural hazards having the highest median deaths (6 [IQR 2-18]).

Conclusion: In Rwanda, MCIs have decreased, although landslides/floods are increasing, preventing a decrease in trauma-related mortality. By training journalists in "mass-casualty reporting", the potential of the "systematic media review" could be further enhanced, as a way to collect MCI data in settings without databases.

Grant support

The author(s) received no specific funding for this work.