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Home > Our Work > Events Archive > 2006 Disease, Disaster, and Democracy

Disease, Disaster, and Democracy:
The Public's Stake in Health Emergency Planning


Background: Modern society's ability to handle potentially catastrophic health events hinges on the integrity of contingency planning, as well as the foresight to prevent and mitigate such devastation.

Plans for public health emergencies, however, are more than operational playbooks for saving lives and livelihoods. They are also a social contract -- a rallying call and promise to protect the populace.

Disaster plans hold both practical and moral value. This fact is most apparent in the case of large-scale disease outbreaks such as SARS or pandemic flu because of their broad-reaching medical, social, political, and economic effects.

Regrettably, human tragedies associated with Hurricane Katrina have called into question our collective resolve and capacity -- in and out of government -- to take care of one another. Public trust in disaster policy is far from certain, particularly among marginalized groups whose needs often go unmet.

We believe that community and citizen engagement prior to and during a health disaster is essential to ensure that preparedness, response, and recovery plans reflect the realities of the people they intend to protect and command their confidence and trust.

Purpose of this meeting: To advise leaders in government, public health, and disaster management on the feasibility and benefits of actively engaging citizens in planning for large-scale health emergencies, in anticipation of (1) the ethical dilemmas posed by scarce life-saving medical resources and (2) the logistical difficulties of protecting the well and caring for the sick in large numbers.

Conference Organizers: Center for Biosecurity of UPMC; Canadian Policy Research Network; Center for Technology and Security Policy, AAAS; National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terror

Agenda with Transcripts

Titles link to transcripts

Opening, Welcome, and Keynote

Panel Discussions

Panel I: What Government Gains by Engaging the Public

  • Mary Pat McKinnon: What Does "Public Involvement" Mean?
  • Karen Marsh: A National Charter for Hometown Security
  • Elaine Chatigny: Citizen Engagement at the Public Health Agency of Canada
  • Question & Answers

Panel II: Show Me! An Inside Look at Citizen Engagement

  • Ann Patton: Grassroots Hazard Management in Tornado Alley
  • Roger Bernier: The Public's Take on "Who's First in Line for Pandemic Flu Vaccine?"
  • Kristina Peterson: A Bayou Community's Cultural and Physical Survival Before and After Katrina
  • Question & Answers

Lunch Session: Polio as the People's Disease

Why We Need Citizen and Community Engagement to Get Through the Next Pandemic Flu

What are the epidemiological predictions for a moderate-to-severe pandemic today? Is it realistic to expect that medical and public health interventions will thwart the broad impact of a novel flu virus? What are the most likely ethical and practical dilemmas that communities will face when trying to prevent additional infections and care for large numbers of sick people?

Concluding Remarks: Monica Schoch-Spana, PhD


Ann Beauchesne, Executive Director, Homeland Security Division, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Arrietta Chakos, Assistant City Manager, City of Berkeley, California

Elaine Chatigny, Director General for Communications, Public Health Agency of Canada

Denise Gray-Felder, President and CEO, Communication for Social Change Consortium; former Vice President and Director of Communications, The Rockefeller Foundation

Maggie Fox, Health and Science Correspondent, Reuters

Peter B. Gudaitis, MDiv, Executive Director and CEO, New York Disaster Interfaith Services

Dan Hanfling, MD, Director, Emergency Manager and Disaster Medicine, Inova Health System, Falls Church, Virginia

DA Henderson, MD, MPH, Distinguished Scholar, Center for Biosecurity of UPMC

Carol Jordan, RN, MPH, Director of Communicable Disease and Epidemiology, Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services (Maryland)

Arlene King, MD, MHSc, FRCPC, Director, Immunization & Respiratory Infections Division, Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC); Co-Chair, PHAC's Pandemic Influenza Committee (invited)

Sarah Landry, MS, Director, Public Policy for Vaccines, GlaxoSmithKline; former Associate Director of Policy and Program Operations, National Vaccine Program Office, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Jan Lane, Deputy Director, Homeland Security Policy Institute, George Washington University; former Vice President of Public Policy and Strategic Partnerships, American Red Cross, National Headquarters

Diane Lapson, President, Independence Plaza North Tenant Association, Lower Manhattan, New York

Mary Pat McKinnon, MPA, Director of Public Involvement, Canadian Policy Research Networks

Karen Marsh, Director, Citizen Corps, U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Tara O'Toole, MD, MPH, CEO and Director, Center for Biosecurity of UPMC

Nelson Ortega, MBA, Executive Director, Centro de la Comunidad, Inc., Baltimore, Maryland

David Oshinsky, PhD, George Littlefield Professor of American History, University of Texas at Austin; Author of the Pulitzer Prize-Winning Historical Account, Polio An American Story

Ann Patton, Founding Director of Tulsa Partners, Inc.; former Director of Project Impact and the Citizen Corps Council for the City of Tulsa, Oklahoma

Kristina Peterson, MDiv, Founding Member, Grand Bayou Families United; Presbyterian Disaster Assistance Volunteer; Doctoral Student, Center for Hazards Assessment, Response and Technology at the University of New Orleans

Monica Schoch-Spana, PhD, Senior Associate, Center for Biosecurity of UPMC; Chairperson, Working Group on Citizen Engagement in Public Health Emergency Planning

Peter A. Singer, Director, University of Toronto Joint Centre for Bioethics (UTJCB); Member, Pandemic Influenza Working Group of the UTJCB

Christa-Marie Singleton, MD, MPH, Chief Medical Director, Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response, Baltimore City Health Department

Eric Toner, MD, Senior Associate, Center for Biosecurity of UPMC; former Medical Director of Disaster Preparedness and Associate Head of Emergency Medicine, St. Joseph Medical Center, Baltimore, MD

Robert Tosatto, RPh, MPH, MBA, Commander, U.S. Public Health Service, Director, Medical Reserve Corps Program, Office of the U.S. Surgeon General

Richard Waldhorn, MD, Distinguished Scholar, Center for Biosecurity of UPMC; Clinical Professor of Medicine, Georgetown University; former Physician-in-Chief, Georgetown University Hospital



Our Mission

To protect people’s health from epidemics and disasters and ensure that communities are resilient to major challenges.