Early lessons from H1N1

The Trust for America's Health, the Center for Biosecurity, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation have released a report analyzing lessons learned from the H1N1 response. The report is worth reading, and mostly confirms what those on the ground already know. For example, here are the 10 early lessons:
1. Investments in pandemic planning and stockpiling antiviral medications paid off;
2. Public health departments did not have enough resources to carry out plans;
3. Response plans must be adaptable and science-driven;
4. Providing clear, straightforward information to the public was essential for allaying fears and building trust;
5. School closings have major ramifications for students, parents and employers;
6. Sick leave and policies for limiting mass gatherings were also problematic;
7. Even with a mild outbreak, the health care delivery system was overwhelmed;
8. Communication between the public health system and health providers was not well coordinated;
9. WHO pandemic alert phases caused confusion; and
10. International coordination was more complicated than expected.
Unfortunately, it will be difficult to make necessary investments in public health infrastructure during this economic downturn (the recovery act funding is time-limited, so it’s difficult for public health departments to expand infrastructure and add personnel when they don’t know if future funding will be available).

The third bullet point, about “science-driven” response plans, is particularly applicable to the transmission route and mask issues we’ve blogged about before. I’m not sure if public health officials fully understand the impact on local hospitals and clinics of assuming airborne rather than droplet spread for influenza.


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