Friday, May 26, 2006

The Public's Stake in Health Emergency Planning

On Tuesday this week in Washington DC, a joint U.S.-Canadian summit titled Disease, Disaster and Democracy: The public’s stake in health emergency planning was hosted by the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Biosecurity in collaboration with the Canadian Policy Research Network; The Center for Science, Technology and Security Policy, the American Association for the Advancement of Science; and the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), a U.S. Department of Homeland Security University Center of Excellence.
The purpose of the summit was to advise government, public health and disaster management leaders on the feasibility and benefits of actively engaging citizens in planning for large-scale health emergencies, in anticipation of the ethical dilemmas posed by a scarcity of life-saving medical resources and the logistical difficulties of protecting the well and caring for the sick in large numbers.
The keynote address on "Why the Public’s Trust and Help Matter in Health Emergencies" was delivered by Dr. D.A. Henderson, of the Center for Biosecurity and former Dean of the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health.

The panel sessions that followed outlined the benefits to government of citizen engagement along with an inside look at current citizen engagement programs, by representatives from the U.S. and Canadian government organizations, and grassroots and faith-based organizations.

Afternoon roundtable exercises focused on pandemic flu, specifically addressing the issues of determining which populations would receive the flu vaccine and the healthcare system’s capacity to manage the sick and the healthy, while maintaining essential medical services. Participants in roundtable discussions included representatives from federal, state and city U.S. government, Canadian government, voluntary and humanitarian relief organizations, hospital administration, community organizations and businesses.

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