No announcement yet.

The National Pandemic Preparedness Blog Summit of the United States

This is a sticky topic.
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • The National Pandemic Preparedness Blog Summit of the United States

    Next week, the HHS will launch a five-week national blog summit on the Internet, specifically devoted to pandemic preparedness. National leaders, working on pandemic preparedness, have been asked to contribute weekly blogs on specific topics, and the public is invited to comment.

    Hopefully we can develop, and sustain, a national dialog on the need for pandemic preparedness. I invite everyone to visit regularly, and take an active role in the conversation.

    For reasons unfathomable to me, I've been asked by the HHS to be one of their regular bloggers, and I have accepted. Hopefully neither of us will come to regret that decision.

    Details on this summit, including the url, will be released early next week. For now, here is how they describe the event.

    What is the purpose of the Department of Health and Human Services? campaign for pandemic preparedness?

    The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is engaging national leaders across business, health care, faith-based and civic sectors in an effort to communicate the importance of individual preparedness for pandemic flu and the unique and important role employers, faith leaders, civic leaders and health care providers have in encouraging other people to prepare.

    These national leaders are coming together via two events: 1) the Pandemic Flu Leadership Blog and 2) the Pandemic Influenza Leadership Forum. The Leadership Forum is a one-day conference to be held on June 13th in Washington, DC. In the weeks leading up to and following the Forum, the five-week-long blog summit will take place online to provide participating leaders with an opportunity to have a conversation about pandemic preparedness with the broader public.

    Why a blog summit?

    HHS recognizes that the conversation about individual preparedness for pandemic flu must extend beyond the gathering in Washington, DC and that, in fact, it already has ? with the vibrant conversation about pandemic flu that is underway within social media, in which many individuals and leaders already participate.

    DemfromCt from the Wiki and I will represent Flublogia at this summit, while other more illustrious participants from the private and public sector will blog from their perspective.

    With your help, and participation, we can make this bold experiment a success.
    All medical discussions are for educational purposes. I am not a doctor, just a retired paramedic. Nothing I post should be construed as specific medical advice. If you have a medical problem, see your physician.

  • #2
    Re: The National Pandemic Preparedness Blog Summit

    everyone will have to opportunity to post comments, so please come by and speak your mind.


    • #3
      Re: The National Pandemic Preparedness Blog Summit

      ...when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. - Sherlock Holmes


      • #4
        Re: The National Pandemic Preparedness Blog Summit

        Very good.
        Thought has a dual purpose in ethics: to affirm life, and to lead from ethical impulses to a rational course of action - Teaching Reverence for Life -Albert Schweitzer. JT


        • #5
          Re: The National Pandemic Preparedness Blog Summit

          Yes - very good.


          • #6
            Re: The National Pandemic Preparedness Blog Summit

            This could be interesting!

            Good luck FLA_MEDIC & DemFromCT I shall follow with interest.


            • #7
              Re: The National Pandemic Preparedness Blog Summit

              Already I am summoning my arguments in my head for a clear, concise, rational and honest risk assessment.
              A two week supply of food and water is simply not enough. Most people reading a truer evaluation of the risk will ignore the advice, but some will decide preparing is the prudent thing to do. They in turn will help friends and family when the situation deteriorates. At least to some extent. We all have prepared not just for ourselves but for others whom we love. The longer we wait to share what could happen the bigger the impact and the higher the fatality rate.
              Please do not ask me for medical advice, I am not a medical doctor.

              Avatar is a painting by Alan Pollack, titled, "Plague". I'm sure it was an accident that the plague girl happened to look almost like my twin.
              Thank you,
              Shannon Bennett


              • #8
                Re: The National Pandemic Preparedness Blog Summit

                This is an English opportunity to get people into the Autonomy Field.

                ..just a remark from boots on the ground,

                I see deciders moving swiftier towards preps when I talk about the social reaction, social instability, social dislocation.

                It seems that each family and/or cultures has its own understanding of epidemics or pandemic.

                But when I spoke of the social effect, then I notice most people are reading the same page.




                • #9
                  Re: The National Pandemic Preparedness Blog Summit

                  The HHS sponsored Pandemic blog summit is now open, and ready for your comments. As of this writing, only 3 blogs are up. Michael Leavitt's, DemfromCt's, and mine. Others will be added later today.

                  Please visit several times a day if possible, and participate. This is your opportunity to participate in the process. The HHS supposedly will respond to questions.

                  Please be patient, as it may take a while for your comments to appear.

                  The url is
                  All medical discussions are for educational purposes. I am not a doctor, just a retired paramedic. Nothing I post should be construed as specific medical advice. If you have a medical problem, see your physician.


                  • #10
                    Re: The National Pandemic Preparedness Blog Summit

                    The blog looks like it is off to a great start.

                    This is not only an opportunity to express ourselves on "bird flu" issues but also to demonstrate the pertinence of responsible online communities.

                    I hope many participate and exhibit a willingness to explore, debate, and investigate the various pandemic influenza issues.


                    • #11
                      Re: The National Pandemic Preparedness Blog Summit

                      Date: May 24, 2007
                      For Release: Immediately
                      Contact: HHS Press Office
                      (202) 690-6343

                      PANDEMIC FLU
                      Influential business, health care, faith-based and community leaders
                      participate in pandemic preparedness blog and forum hosted by HHS

                      The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has launched the
                      Pandemic Flu Leadership Blog, a five-week-long blog about pandemic
                      preparedness. Participant bloggers include some of the nation's most
                      influential business, health care, faith-based and community leaders.
                      This online event is part of a new campaign to help Americans prepare
                      for a potential influenza pandemic and engage U.S. leaders in the
                      challenge to help others prepare.

                      "The conversation about individual preparedness for pandemic flu must
                      extend nationwide through all possible channels, including social media
                      and the Internet," HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said. "The blog summit
                      an innovative and efficient forum for bringing together leaders for a
                      lively discussion on the pandemic preparedness movement."

                      HHS is one of the first government agencies to utilize the participatory
                      nature of the Internet to create a dialogue around a specific issue or
                      campaign. This effort to engage individuals in an online conversation is
                      the one of many steps HHS will be taking to carry out its campaign to
                      encourage Americans to prepare. By preparing now, individuals will be
                      better able to withstand the impact of a pandemic, slow the spread of
                      disease, and lessen the overall impact to themselves, their families and
                      to society.

                      Ideas and dialogue generated during the leadership blog will contribute
                      to HHS' upcoming pandemic influenza leadership forum in June, an event
                      which will bring together approximately 80 U.S. leaders representing the
                      business, faith, civic and health care communities. The dynamic
                      leadership forum will call on participants to help Americans become more
                      prepared for an influenza pandemic by leveraging their influence and
                      expertise in their communities to actively promote individual pandemic

                      "It may not be possible to predict with certainty when the next flu
                      pandemic will occur or how severe it will be, but it is essential to
                      prepare ahead of time and that time is now," Secretary Leavitt said. "We
                      are the first generation ever to have an opportunity to prepare in
                      advance of a pandemic. Government alone can't prepare the nation for a
                      pandemic. This is a shared responsibility and the challenge requires
                      leadership from those most trusted and respected in their communities."

                      The pandemic-focused leadership blog gives national leaders the
                      opportunity to participate in an ongoing and critical conversation about
                      the potential impact of a pandemic on individuals, families, communities
                      and workplaces. Participating bloggers will be asked specific questions
                      related to the threat of a pandemic in the U.S. and will collaborate on
                      ideas for what can be done to help their employees, constituents,
                      customers, congregations and clients prepare now.

                      Approximately 16 influential leaders, including leading authorities on
                      pandemic flu, will blog throughout the next five weeks. A few of the
                      participant bloggers include Pierre Omidyar, Founder and Chairman of
                      Ebay and Co-founder of Omidyar Network; David Eisner, CEO of the
                      Corporation for National and Community Service; and Greg Dworkin,
                      Founding Editor of Flu Wiki and Chief of Pediatric Pulmonology and
                      Medical Director of the Pediatric Inpatient Unit at Danbury Hospital in
                      Danbury, Conn.

                      The Pandemic Flu Leadership Blog will continue through June 27 and is
                      open to the public and media. Comments are welcome and encouraged by all
                      who visit the blog at

                      In conjunction with the blog, HHS will hold a Pandemic Influenza
                      Leadership Forum on June 13 in Washington, DC with representatives of
                      the business, faith, civic and health care communities. Using
                      materials prepared by HHS, local leaders will be asked to reach out to
                      the people they represent with the essential steps necessary for
                      pandemic flu preparedness. By preparing now, individuals will be better
                      able to withstand the impact of a pandemic, slow the spread of disease,
                      and lessen the overall impact to themselves, their families and society.

                      An influenza pandemic occurs when a new influenza ("flu") virus appears
                      in humans; the new virus causes serious illness and death, and spreads
                      easily from person to person worldwide. Past influenza pandemics, like
                      the one that occurred in 1918, have led to: high levels of illness;
                      death; disruption in normal, everyday activities like going to school,
                      work, or other public gatherings, and economic loss. For more
                      information visit:



                      • #12
                        Re: The National Pandemic Preparedness Blog Summit

                        I will be posting some of the items that are posted at the blog summit here at FluTrackers.

                        hat-tip Julie Fanselow
                        Government ‘takes a shot’ at inviting citizen input

                        SCRC helps organize deliberation on pandemic flu vaccine policy

                        by Julie Fanselow
                        February 27, 2006 | Atlanta, Georgia
                        Study circles organizers know the power of gathering people from diverse backgrounds to talk about local concerns. But could democratic deliberation help a vast federal bureaucracy hear citizen voices on a pressing national issue?
                        That’s exactly what happened when the Study Circles Resource Center recently helped produce the Public Engagement Pilot Project on Pandemic Influenza, or PEPPPI. More than 100 Atlanta-area residents met for a daylong event to discuss and rank goals for the Department of Health and Human Services’ pandemic influenza plan.
                        The scientist began seeking ways for people on opposite sides of an issue to get to work together. “I asked myself, ‘What kind of work do we do at CDC that’s shareable?’”

                        The public session in Atlanta came between two meetings of a 50-person national stakeholders group representing organizations interested in pandemic flu. Citizens from three other states – Massachusetts, Nebraska, and Oregon – also had opportunities to comment on the Atlanta citizens’ findings and the stakeholders’ reports. In the end, the citizens and stakeholders group agreed that “assuring the functioning of society” should be the top immunization goal, followed by reducing individual deaths and hospitalizations due to influenza.
                        Making it happen
                        ‘What you’ve done is groundbreaking’
                        The PEPPPI report is available for viewing on The Keystone Center’s web site, along with this comment from Patty Dineen, who works with The Kettering Institute’s National Issues Forum: "This is the best public engagement project and report that I have seen. I really think that what you've done is groundbreaking and should be required reading for all of us who are involved in - or care about—public engagement."
                        The section of the Department of Health and Human Services’ pandemic flu plan mentioning the work of PEPPPI can be found online.

                        The initial drive to involve citizens in some vaccine-related policy decisions came from Roger Bernier, a researcher for the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Bernier has frequently been in the crossfire between government immunization policy and activists concerned with vaccine safety, particularly the relationship between vaccines and autism. In 2001, while Bernier was testifying on Capitol Hill, an autism advocate dismissed CDC’s research as “dead on arrival” simply because it came from the federal government.
                        “It was a wake-up call to me, reflecting a fundamental distrust between our agency and some segments of the public,” Bernier recalls, adding that he realized then that “building trust wouldn’t happen through more research.” The scientist began seeking ways for people on opposite sides of an issue to get to work together. “I asked myself, ‘What kind of work do we do at CDC that’s shareable?’” Bernier says. Vaccine policy emerged as one area that’s not exclusively technical, but also informed by social values, and thus ideal for citizen input.
                        Bernier asked his boss for a sabbatical and attended a Kettering Foundation-led Public Policy Institute program in suburban Cincinnati, Ohio – an experience he calls ”the beginning of my travels in the democracy zone.” Eager to create a new model for public engagement on government policy, he worked with The Keystone Center– a Colorado-based organization skilled in dialogue and collaborative problem solving on matters of science and public policy – and people from a variety of vaccine stakeholder groups to convene a session at Wingspread, the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home-turned-conference site at Racine, Wisconsin.Bernier says they deliberately chose the inspiring setting to signal “this was not business as usual.”
                        The resulting proposal for a new public engagement process involving both citizens and professional-governmental stakeholders was forwarded to National Vaccine Advisory Committee for review. There, it received what Bernier calls a “polite but not enthusiastic reception.” But the ad hoc steering group – later known as Racine Sixteen, of which Study Circles Resource Center Senior Associate Matt Leighninger was a part – did not quit there. They stayed connected and remained watchful for an opportunity to test their ideas.
                        The group saw its opening when, in the spring of 2005, the Department of Health and Human Services’ first influenza pandemic plan did not adequately address how meager supplies of flu vaccine would be distributed. The Keystone Center suggested a grant it had received from the Richard Lounsbery Foundation might be used to bring together citizens and stakeholders to address those gaps, and the PEPPPI was born.
                        A day of dialogue

                        "...SCRC’s expertise in large-scale community dialogue was a key piece of bringing the citizens together in Atlanta and the other regional sites."

                        The Keystone Center, in collaboration with the Study Circles Resource Center and Kathleen Stratton from the Institute of Medicine (an independent advisory organization), co-organized the pilot public engagement project, while Bernier (Bernier's welcoming remarks) and Edgar K. Marcuse of the University of Washington and Children’s Regional Hospital & Medical Center in Seattle co-chaired the stakeholders’ sessions. Mary Davis Hamlin, senior associate for The Keystone Center, says SCRC’s expertise in large-scale community dialogue was a key piece of bringing the citizens together in Atlanta and the other regional sites. Leighninger wrote a dialogue guide for the one-day event, and SCRC asked Senior Associate Jon Abercrombie to serve as lead recruiter, community organizer, and facilitator in Atlanta.
                        More than 100 citizens were asked to join the discussion, including many people who’d previously told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper they were willing to offer input on important topics. Participants ranged in age from 18 to 78, with racial and gender diversity. Free parking and onsite childcare helped ensure a good turnout, too.

                        Keystone Report

                        First, the group spent about 90 minutes learning about pandemic flu and the federal government’s decision-making processes. Next, they used exercises to dissect and discuss values that might inform their own decisions. For example, they were told, imagine you are a doctor with 100 patients, 50 of whom would need two doses of vaccine to be protected, and 50 who’d only need one dose. You have 50 doses, and you can’t get more. How would you decide how to allocate the available vaccines?
                        After lunch, the participants tackled possible pandemic vaccination policy goals. In addition to the favored two options – limiting the larger effects on society and reducing individual deaths and hospitalizations – choices included putting children and young people first; using a lottery system; or adopting a “first-come, first-served” policy.
                        Hamlin says observers from the medical and science communities were pleasantly surprised by the day’s energetic, upbeat tone. “Their experience with the public was always in shrill public hearings, after issues had escalated,” she says, but here they were able to understand that “people are typically very constructive and respectful and wise.”
                        “Some of the officials were skeptical about whether citizens could say anything intelligent and helpful, so the fact that the citizens and experts came to many of the same conclusions was big news,” Leighninger says. The day wound up with discussion on possible ways to prevent or at least contain a pandemic.
                        Getting public input on the radar screen
                        Leighninger says that while the federal government has frequently solicited citizen input in local decisions (environmental impact statements, for example), the PEPPPI represents one of the few instances where at-large citizens were involved in helping shape policy for a national issue. But in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution article the day after the event, reporter M.A.J. McKenna wrote that some participants “left the meeting skeptical that their efforts would make much difference.”
                        “People are always skeptical, and for good reason, over whether their input will be taken seriously,” Leighninger says. Abercrombie adds that organizers “helped people with those feelings speak out and be included in the record of what happened, so their feelings were honestly heard.”
                        Bernier says a Department of Health and Human Services representative was on hand for the event, and that the National Vaccine Advisory Committee has created a communications and public engagement subcommittee, helping to institutionalize the idea of public input. ”It does show public engagement has gotten on their radar screen,” says Bernier.
                        The deliberations also won a brief mention in the final HHS report on pandemic flu plan: “HHS has recently initiated outreach to engage the public and obtain a broader perspective into decisions on priority groups for pandemic vaccine and antiviral drugs. Though findings of the outreach are preliminary, a theme that has emerged is the importance of limiting the effects of a pandemic on society by preserving essential societal functions.”
                        “I think that statement is the only concrete evidence we have that we were taken seriously,” Bernier says. “(But) the evidence does suggest we definitely did get consideration.” The report indicated that HHS realized it had too narrow a view, “and it needed a wider-angle lens,” Bernier notes. The PEPPPI findings provided that broader view. In addition, Bernier says CDC Director Julie L. Gerberding has reviewed the report and expressed strong support for using its approach on other issues.
                        The public engagement pilot project organizers aren’t yet sure where the model might be used next, but they are watching for opportunities. Bernier continues to work within the CDC to promote more citizen input, and says he’s “cautiously optimistic” that the government will invite more public engagement on policy decisions in the future.
                        He (Bernier) suggests that study circle proponents and others in the civic engagement community need to lead the call for the government to use more public input.

                        “This is hard,” says Bernier, adding that he often feels like he’s been pushing a rock up a mountain for years and he’s still nowhere near the summit. “This is about paradigm change, and therefore there is no groundswell of interest for this in the vaccine or public health science communities. I don’t really know how it’s going to turn out,” he added.
                        He suggests that study circle proponents and others in the civic engagement community need to lead the call for the government to use more public input. “I love my friends in the public engagement world, but where are they?“ he asks.
                        “I think people could be pushing this and saying ‘What about this? Isn’t it great? How else could it be used?’” Public engagement pros, he adds, ought to be “banging on the doors … to take this successful experiment and call for more.”
                        Meanwhile, Leighninger says this experience was a good example of how the relationship between government and citizens is changing in fundamental ways – a topic he addresses in the forthcoming book The Next Form of Democracy: How Expert Rule is Giving Way to Shared Governance - And Why Politics Will Never Be the Same. People are better connected, organized, informed, and willing to challenge government. “Federal officials may not realize it yet,” Leighninger says. “But they really can’t operate like they’re the only ones on the stage anymore.”
                        While the Study Circles Resource Center primarily focuses its resources on building local democracy as a strategy for strengthening national democracy, we welcomed this project as an opportunity to apply processes we develop at the local level to a national issue.



                        • #13
                          Re: The National Pandemic Preparedness Blog Summit

                          New blog post -

                          Posted by
                          Rebecca Patton
                          MSN, RN, CNOR; President, American Nurses Association

                          ANA Joining the Dialogue

                          As the President of the American Nurses Association, I am pleased to join in this signficant discussion on a real threat to our country and the world. We know that as registered nurses we must be ready to respond, both personally and professionally. Being prepared does not apply only to those of us who respond at the time of need, ? all citizens must take this seriously and begin to plan for any potential disaster that may occur in our own community. It is true that many families are already stretched and finding the time and money to do this will not be easy. However, there are consequences of not doing so ? consequences for individuals, families, communities, states and countries.
                          Comments have already been posted expressing concern about our health care system being quickly overwhelmed and healthcare workers being unable or unwilling to come to work. This may be true. But, as we continue to plan and work together, we can consider ways to improve the response of the health care system before a disaster. For instance, one strategy might be to change where we birth most babies. This might seem trivial, if not unconnected, to disaster preparedness. But consider: Most pregnant women experience a healthy pregnancy. Plans should be made now to expand opportunities for out-of-hospital home or birthing-center deliveries. These is no need for healthy pregnant women to go to a hospital already overwhelmed by influenza patients. These deliveries can and should be attended by certified registered nurse midwives already based in the community.
                          With regard to health care workers and their ability or willingness to come to work during a pandemic influenza event. We know that this is tied to their concerns for their families and their own personal health. These are reasonable concerns and could be managed with appropriate planning on the part of the government, the employer, and the health care worker. For instance, it is critical that we work together to ensure that there are sufficient supplies of respirators and other personal protective equipment. If we attend to these concerns in advance, then we know that registered nurses and other health care workers are much more likely to come to work and provide excellent care.
                          I look forward to participating in a very lively and productive dialogue.



                          • #14
                            Re: The National Pandemic Preparedness Blog Summit

                            Just a reminder, week two of the Blog summit is now underway. This week we propose SOLUTIONS.

                            We need your voices in this discussion. This is our limited opportunity to have our voices heard. Please take the time to visit, read, and comment.

                            The HHS is apparently serious that they want to hear from us.

                            All medical discussions are for educational purposes. I am not a doctor, just a retired paramedic. Nothing I post should be construed as specific medical advice. If you have a medical problem, see your physician.


                            • #15
                              Re: The National Pandemic Preparedness Blog Summit

                              Posted by
                              Michael Coston
                              Founder, Avian Flu Diary

                              Posts (2)
                              View Bio

                              The Stuff That Solutions Are Made Of

                              &#183; What do I need from the Department of Health and Human Services — or others — to be able to make a contribution ?
                              While a pandemic would be an overwhelming event, one that no government could possibly handle on their own, we have a secret weapon at our disposal, one that could well change the course and outcome of a crisis.

                              That weapon? We, the people.

                              Ordinary citizens like you and I. We are the stuff that solutions are made of. The States and Federal government can make plans, and prepare on a macro level, but ultimately we are the ones who will have to answer the call in our communities.

                              We’ve grown accustomed to treating our nation like a 5 star resort, where if a problem with the accommodations crops up, we call the front desk and complain.

                              Hello? I’d like to report a pandemic in my room. Please send someone up right away. Thanks

                              Under normal circumstances, that’s how things work. We pay our taxes, and in return we expect the government to handle the big problems for us while we concentrate on working, raising our families, and chasing the fabled American Dream. We aren’t always satisfied with the results, but that’s our system, and so we generally sigh, accept what we get, and go on.

                              Sometimes though, perhaps once in a generation, a crisis comes along that is simply too big for the government to handle alone. When that happens, they must turn to the people for help. The last time the government did this was during World War II, and history shows it was the right move. In fact, the efforts on the home front made the difference in the outcome of that war.

                              The corollaries between then and now are remarkable.

                              In 1941, we watched from a distance as the war in Europe raged on, and while we we’re sympathetic to those fighting aggression and annexation in Europe, we felt we were protected by two vast oceans; that it wasn’t our war. We lent support to England and Russia with the lend-lease program, but were unwilling to join the fight.
                              It wasn’t until after Pearl Harbor, and the destruction of the Pacific Fleet, that we felt our backs were against the wall and our nation rallied. It was, we realized, no longer a European problem; it was our problem too.

                              After the shock of December 7th, we rapidly mobilized a great nation.

                              Millions of men and women flocked to recruiting stations to enlist, knowing full well they were going in harm’s way. My father was one of them, all of 17 years of age when he joined the navy. From cities and farms they came, because their nation needed them.

                              During those early dark days of 1942 the outcome of the war was in real doubt, as we’d joined in late, and were starting with a diminished military and an economy still lagging from the effects of a decade long depression. There were many who believed the war was lost before it started, and we should simply capitulate.

                              But a miracle of sorts occurred. Not unlike the one we need today.

                              On the home front millions more joined the war effort.

                              Housewives took off their aprons and donned tool belts, went to work in shipyards and airplane factories, and the legend of Rosie the Riveter was born. Ordinary citizens, many too old for active service, volunteered to become block wardens and aircraft spotters. Teenagers rolled bandages or served donuts for the Red Cross, and volunteers worked in VA hospitals and USO clubs around the nation. Everyone recycled for the war effort, housewives collected grease, and people accepted the need for ration coupons and meatless Tuesdays.

                              The media, radio and movies mostly, rallied the nation with what today is considered blatant propaganda, but there can be no doubt that their efforts enabled us to meet an almost impossible challenge. Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, the Andrews Sisters, and hundreds of other celebrities lent their voices to the war effort. They told us to buy war bonds, and we did. They reminded us to recycle, and we did.

                              They told us to believe in ourselves, and that we could win.

                              And we did

                              We went from a badly weakened military to a fighting force in a matter of months. In time, hundreds of aircraft began to roll off of assembly lines each week, and by the end of the war, the Navy was launching a new liberty ship nearly every day.

                              It was a remarkable achievement.

                              Looking back, it took more than a government and a military to win that war. It took the help and full cooperation of the American people. Right now, while we face a different threat, the solutions are the same.

                              As in 1940, we aren’t preparing for the battle to come, we are sleeping peacefully, unaware of the gathering storm. Unlike 70 years ago, we need to reawaken the American spirit and rally the nation before we see an attack on our soil.

                              The government, despite their best efforts, cannot fight a pandemic alone. They will need our help. But for that to happen, they must be willing to enable our participation.
                              During WWII, there were people called `dollar-a-year-men’, business executives and community leaders who served their nations at little or no pay. The government paid their expenses, but they donated their time. They did it because they felt it was their patriotic duty: an old, but honorable concept. They weren’t part of the government, or the military, but we’re recognized by those entities as genuine partners in the war effort. They lent their time, support, and expertise, because they realized their country needed them.

                              We need to reawaken that spirit. Enable it, and encourage it.

                              One of the best reservoirs of talent available to the government today are members of flu forums, sometimes called flubies, who already are well informed, passionate, and ahead of the curve on pandemic preparation. Some of them are already giving presentations in their communities, but there are many more who would, if encouraged.

                              Pandemic flu preparedness isn’t something that can be adequately conveyed to the public in 30-second public service announcements, or drive-by newspaper articles. The subject is too complex, and people need to have their questions answered. In my experience, it takes an hour just to hit the high points.

                              The best, and perhaps the only effective way to get the message out are through community town hall style meetings.

                              We need knowledgeable people who can do responsible presentations in every school, church, community center, and civic organization in the nation. Citizens need to know how to prepare, what to expect, and how to deal with it. But in order for this to happen, the government must enable, encourage, and most importantly, sanction these presentations.

                              The message can be standardized, and presented without raising undo alarm. But it mustn’t be watered down or sugar coated. The public won’t panic if they are properly informed. Panic only comes from an absence of knowledge. While the primary message should be about pandemic flu, this is also an opportunity to present an `all-threats’ preparedness message, one that would pertain not only to a pandemic, but also to hurricanes, earthquakes, and other natural disasters.

                              Imagine the cumulative impact of having hundreds of community pandemic awareness meetings each month across this country? The message would be picked up by local media, and the word would be spread by attendee’s to families and friends. We would have an opportunity to instill a preparedness meme in our country, which would serve us well in any crisis. And we can tailor each presentation to the audience, increasing its effectiveness.

                              Retired doctors and nurses, and yes, even old retired medics like myself, can begin teaching home flu care and preventative hygiene classes in our communities. The government has already acknowledged that most flu victims won’t be able to receive hospital care. The next step is to empower people to care for their loved ones in a pandemic.

                              Local health departments are understaffed and under budgeted. They don’t have time to visit every civic organization, trailer park clubhouse, church and school to deliver this message.

                              Thirty years ago, during the Swine Flu scare of 1976, as a young medic I was enlisted by the local Health Department to do exactly that, and during that summer I spoke at dozens of venues. These presentations were considered a great success, and the audiences were very receptive.
                              h, I understand the reluctance. Can you trust us? Can we be professional? Can we deliver the message without sparking undo panic or alarm?
                              I believe the answer to all of those questions is `yes’.

                              Many of us in the flubie community are products of the cold war. Most of us are in our 40’s or 50’s. We grew up under the specter of the A-bomb. We learned to `duck and cover’ as children, and knew not to look at the flash. We remember the civil defense films, shown in every classroom in the nation during the 1960’s, and the tense days of the Cuban Missile Crisis. At the age of 8, I probably knew more about fallout shelters and radiation sickness than most Americans know about pandemic flu today.

                              We didn’t panic, or act recklessly then, and we won’t now.

                              In fact this early tempering on the forge of the cold war was probably responsible for my becoming a paramedic, an Instructor for the American Red Cross, and a member of my county’s Civil Defense team. Admittedly a misspent youth, but one I am unapologetic for.

                              If you can’t trust us, whom can you trust?

                              Start small, if need be. Initiate a pilot program. Go to the flu forums and ask for volunteers. Pick the best dozen representatives you can find. We’re all on record; it wouldn’t take much to determine whom you can trust. Give them letters of introduction and some preparedness pamphlets and see what they can do in their communities.
                              You might be pleasantly surprised. It doesn’t always take a multi-million dollar advertising campaign to get the word out.

                              I get very little traction talking about pandemic flu in my community because I’m a private citizen, with no bona fides. As far as I can see, there is little or no pandemic preparation or awareness here, and no one wants to listen to a retired paramedic. I have no official standing, and so I am easily dismissed.
                              Legitimize our efforts, enable us to get our foot in the door, and you will have an army of hard-working, dedicated foot soldiers in the field.
                              Give us enough levers, even small ones, and we’ll help move the world for you.

                              It’s really as simple as that

                              Community education, while vital, is just the beginning.

                              While there is much planning going on at the Federal and State levels, distressingly little appears to be happening at the community level. Most local governments are waiting for direction and funding from higher up, or are ignoring the problem altogether. Few communities have the budget to gear up for a pandemic, and so few are actively doing anything to prepare. Many, mistakenly still believe the State or Federal government will move in to handle any crisis.

                              To solve this impasse we need community volunteers, working in partnership with local governments, to prepare for a pandemic. We should be thinking along the lines of a State or Federally sanctioned Volunteer Pandemic Corps, where citizens can band together to help their communities solve local problems.
                              Once again, members of flu forums who have considered and discussed these issues could be major assets to these organizations.

                              How do we ensure the delivery of food and supplies to local communities? How do we distribute needed medicines to families? Who will check on the elderly, or infirmed, during a pandemic? What about single parents who are stricken by the virus? Who cares for them, or their children? What becomes of the 27 million Americans who live alone if they become ill? Who will step in to take over the jobs of fallen essential workers?

                              These are problems that will require local solutions, and yet are beyond the scope and capacity of most local governments. Somehow, we must find ways to deal with them.
                              It should be noted that those of us over the age of 40 may be particularly useful in a pandemic. This virus, much like the Spanish Flu of 1918, prefers young adults and children. Thus far, 90&#37; of its victims have been under the age of 40. Baby boomers, such as myself, run less of a risk of infection or death than do younger people.

                              Since the goal of any rational society is to protect the next generation, some of us who are less vulnerable must ultimately step up and take on some of the risks during a pandemic. No, its not a pleasant thought. No one wants to go in harm’s way. But it is the responsible thing for us to do.

                              It is my hope we can create an army of graying volunteers, thin of hair, but not of spirit, to do those jobs during a pandemic we wouldn’t wish upon our children.

                              If a volunteer can drive a truck, check on a neighbor, hand out a flyer, join a neighborhood watch, work a telephone, tend to the sick, cook a meal, operate a Ham Radio, or watch the child of someone who is ill, they can be an essential relief worker.

                              You don’t have to put on a uniform, or wear a badge, to be a hero to your community. All you have to do is think like one. And act like one. Pretty soon, you’ll be one.

                              No, not everyone will volunteer to work during a pandemic. I understand that. Not everyone is suited for it. There are personal risks involved. It takes a special type of person, often one without family responsibilities, to undertake this sort of assignment in a crisis. But there are more of them out there than you know. You just have to ask them to come forth.
                              Officials are often loath to ask for help from the public. They see it as an admission of failure on their part. But the real failure would be in not asking, when the need is this obvious.

                              They can’t handle a pandemic alone. They know it. We know it.

                              It’s time to reach for a solution.

                              Cynicism towards all levels of government runs rampant in our society. People, quite frankly, don’t trust the government. They feel disenfranchised, isolated, and patronized. The government correspondingly has grown wary of its own citizens. We’ve gotten to the point where we talk at each other, instead of to each other.
                              While it may sound idealistic, working together to fight a pandemic could help heal that rift.

                              Even if a pandemic doesn’t occur in the near-term, by working together on solutions, we would become a stronger, safer, and more unified nation. We’d be better prepared for the next earthquake, hurricane, or flood. And those are threats we know we will face.

                              Trust is a two-way street
                              . If the government can show some faith in its citizens by asking for their help, citizens will naturally begin to trust the government more.

                              An unavoidable side effect, I suppose.

                              But it’s one, in time, I believe we could learn to live with.

                              Posted May 28, 2007 at 10:19 am