Center for BiosecurityUPMC
Disease, Disaster, & Democracy
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Convening Organizations
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Summit convened by:

Center for Biosecurity

Canadian Policy Research Network

Center for Science Technology and Security Policy at AAAS

National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terror

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Home > Events > Disease, Disaster, and Democracy, 2006



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.

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.