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The Sneeze Heard 'Round the World: Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Strategies to Adopt Now


Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Sponsored by the American Health Lawyers Association Public Interest Committee

Audio Recording of the Teleconference

Teleconference Description

Without question, we now live in a global economy. Our country’s healthcare system, similar to our economy in general, operates on a just-in-time basis. There are risks, as well as rewards, in living in an interconnected and interdependent world. For example, a disruption in the availability of workers, products, parts or services could significantly affect healthcare entities’ surge capacity to accommodate a major disaster. An influenza pandemic that closed international borders, caused worker attrition and suspended travel or the transport of commercial goods would seriously disrupt the delivery of everyday essentials.

Moreover, individuals with highly-contagious illnesses can be transported across the world in mere hours, arriving at multiple, widely dispersed locations. This increases the risk that, when an influenza pandemic strikes, the spread will be fast, furious, and difficult to predict. It is impossible to predict when, or which, influenza virus mutation will result in a highly-pathogenic, readily human-to-human transmissible virus. There is not a question, however, that it will occur at some point since an influenza pandemic is a recurring natural disaster similar to earthquakes, hurricanes and tsunamis.

Because the disaster recovery plans of most healthcare providers contemplate short-term emergencies, the usual approach to emergency preparedness will not be effective in the context of an influenza pandemic. This teleconference will focus on the considerations unique to preparedness planning for influenza pandemics, including protection of employees and maintaining operations, implementation of altered clinical pathways, and strategies for successful public health and provider coordination that need to be addressed at the present time to ensure an adequate level of preparedness. One of the country’s leading experts, Dr. Michael T. Osterholm, and three of the Association’s experts in the emerging specialty of emergency preparedness law will discuss practical preparedness steps that healthcare entities, providers and payors can implement now. Without a clear understanding of the relevant legal issues, the healthcare sector’s preparedness and response efforts will be subject to unnecessary confusion at a time when clarity is needed most.


Melissa L. Markey
Hall Render Killian Heath & Lyman PC
Troy, MI

Michael T. Osterholm, PhD, MPH
Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy
University of Minnesota

Richard L. Shackelford
King & Spalding
Atlanta, GA

Elisabeth Belmont (Moderator)
Portland, ME

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