Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Ready or not?

See Channel 7 here in Denver for information on the campaign resulting from a partnership between the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and Wal-Mart/Sam's Club stores beginning next week.

In this editorial, our director of public health preparedness and response issues a challenge to everyone.

It's not so much a "be prepared or be scared" warning, but he offers some useful info on being ready for anything.

Most relevant to me? How about:
"Spread out the cost by buying a few items each time you shop."
"Work... with neighbors or friends to develop and store items together."

How about you?

What is the best piece of advice you have received about preparing for any emergency? Let us know.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Public health and "unintended consequences?"

Social distancing. Community resiliency.

These are two phrases that are used a lot by experts who analyze the potential impacts of a pandemic - an unfamiliar disease that is causing serious illness around the world.

A commentary in the February 6 issue of JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, brings the conflicts to the surface again (JAMA, vol. 299, no. 5, pp 566-568, subscription required).

The state epidemiologist from Florida writes of the American respect for diversity, based on shared goals and aspirations. But, he says, recommendations for "social distancing" are "based on limited current scientific evidence and could have serious adverse unintended consequences for the social fabric of society..."

Dr. John Middaugh is concerned. This public health leader believes that public health is changing its longstanding, science-based recommendations for flu that focus on protecting the most vulnerable people with either vaccinations or antiviral medications.

The new messages from public health, he says, tell us that we each have the power and responsibility to prevent exposure to a pandemic flu virus and it will be up to us to take action to reduce the effects of a pandemic on everyone.

Hmmm, I can see what Dr. Middaugh is saying.

When the U.S. secretary of Health and Human Services visited Colorado, his main point seemed to be, "Don't count on us [the feds] for help."

Is that what all of public health is saying now?

That would really be a shame. It kind of takes the "public" out of "public health," doesn't it?

What do you think?
  • If we encourage social distancing, do we risk weakening our commitment to community? Does social distancing = social disorder during a crisis?

  • Will social distancing mean that we abandon those who would not survive a pandemic without the support of others -- the ill, the young, the old, the disabled?

Here's another take on the JAMA commentary:

Oh, and P.S.
Dr. Middaugh also talks about fear-mongering around seasonal flu and flu vaccination campaigns. Is he right that flu shot campaigns are really our government's approach to increasing the demand for vaccine so vaccine manufacturers will expand production? And, he says, "The campaign to increase use of influenza vaccination for seasonal influenza adds to the fear of this disease and fuels separation and isolation." Yikes. What does this mean for public health?

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Did you know your neighbors at your precinct caucus?

Last night, in spite of the cold and my cold, I dragged myself out to the precinct caucus to help Colorado make history. For our very first Super Tuesday, there was quite a turn-out. There were thousands of people trying to get into a middle school and adjacent high school for I don't know how many precincts.

It occurred to me that I had never seen so many of my "neighbors" in one place. It was relatively orderly, but pretty confusing.

Two things came to mind. First, evacuations and shelters - what if we all had to go to those schools for shelter? How would we have coped with temporary communal living? Would I have been able to grab anything from our "go-kit" on the way out? My emergency supplies container is huge - and that's even without food and water. I resolved to make backpacks for each of us with our bare essentials for an evacuation on foot.

Second, my neighbors - there were three people there from my block that I knew by name and possibly a few more by sight. I wish that I had thought about this before the caucus, but wouldn't it have been nice to start a neighborhood registry? I think I will call my city council representative about having a neighborhood event to help people get to know each other.

Finally, I skimmed through a few blogs this morning and saw that our friends at READYColorado posted a piece about planning for our pets. When I thought about sheltering, I forgot about this - even though we have two dogs.

Check out that information about how to prepare for your pets during an emergency. It's great information.