Pandemic Flu Preparedness

This week the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Trust for America’s Health and the Center for Biosecurity of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, released a new report, The Pandemic Flu: Lessons from the Frontlines, detailing 10 early lessons from the recent H1N1 outbreak, as well as 10 core areas that must be addressed to strengthen U.S. preparedness for future potential flu outbreaks and other national health emergencies.

“H1N1 is a real-world test of our initial emergency response capabilities—all of the planning and preparations have paid off. The country is significantly ahead of where we were a few years ago,” said Jeff Levi, Ph.D., executive director of TFAH. “However, the outbreak also revealed serious gaps in our nation’s preparedness for pandemic flu and other public health emergencies. “

With the looming possibility for a reemergence of H1N1 this fall, the new report provides valuable guidance for helping public health officials and departments evaluate and adjust their readiness to deal with a major outbreak.

“It’s critical to understand what worked as planned in the H1N1 response as well as to look at what needs to be strengthened, fixed, or better funded. This report is a contribution to that effort,” said Thomas Ingelsby, M.D., deputy director, Center for Biosecurity of UPMC.  

The 10 early lessons are: 

  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
  10. International coordination was more complicated than expected.

The Pandemic Flu: Lessons from the Frontlines was supported by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.