Lessons learned from Katrina, 9/11, SARS, and other disasters
SHUTE: I know that in any kind of crisis, communications is a huge effort and there's been a big push and pull within HHS and some other public health organizations as far as how much to tell the public, particularly in preparing for a possible pandemic. What's New York City's policy on that?
WEISFUSE: Well, I think we've done a lot of work, you know, in terms of training on this concept called risk communication, which is how to get across these sometimes scary concepts in the most accurate way. So we've done a lot of internal work and discussion on that.
I think our approach is, you know, trying to strike that balance you know, and it is difficult because New York City is well, larger of an environments - have tremendous other public health issues. We have a large HIV epidemic, we have obesity, diabetes, we have lots of issues and we can't lose track of those in our rush to prepare for pandemic flu. But that being said, I think that we want to get some common sense approaches across to the public about what a pandemic might mean for them, how they can protect themselves in terms of respiratory hygiene and perhaps other measures.
SHUTE: Thank you. I want to ask one more question of our panelists, and then we'll open the floor to questions, and I want to start with Dr. Franz because he came down to New Orleans really on a volunteer effort, and a great deal of the work you've done with refugees has been in a volunteer capacity. Are there ways that we could use volunteers better, either in a Katrina like situation or perhaps pandemic flu?
FRANZ: I think the probably the most important thing you can always use volunteers but they can't be tourists. And I think the lesson learned is and probably are one of the most important aspects of our operation was to go through an organization who was used to dealing with volunteers and relief operations and they knew how to interface volunteers and efforts with those who needed it.
So yes, there's going to be a need for those efforts. You know, part of the issue is going to be the vetting. Unfortunately and again, I'm part of the system so I guess I can criticize it - nobody ever taught me anything about handling human waste or a latrine until I was in the military; it's not part of my medical education. When I asked new generations of medical students, what would you do if our plumbing system broke down here? What would you do? They don't know. And it's not a criticism of them but it's a gap in their knowledge. But yet it's a basic thing.
So I think one of the lessons I took from this and looking at - is we educate volunteers for the future, in the healthcare sector because volunteers are going to be needed, as well as workers in healthcare area, again to be very well vetted and very well educated in basic public health principals.