HHS launches blog on pandemic preparedness

May 22, 2007 (CIDRAP News) – To encourage the public to join discussions on pandemic influenza preparedness, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) today launched a 5-week blog on the topic in conjunction with a Jun 13 leadership forum.

The "Pandemic Flu Leadership Blog," hosted on the government's Pandemicflu.gov Web site, features writings by a group of 13 experts from public health, medicine, disaster preparedness, government, business, communications, and online media, according to HHS. The public is invited to comment on the contributors' entries.

The invited contributors will address five weekly themes over the course of the blog, which is to run through Jun 27. The topics include the need to prepare, leadership roles, convincing people to prepare, results of the leadership forum, and steps for moving forward. The blog will include live posts from the Jun 13 forum.

One of the blog contributors is HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt. In his first post, he wrote that the Jun 13 leadership forum is designed to bring together influential leaders from business, faith, civic, and healthcare communities to discuss how to help Americans better prepare for an influenza pandemic.

"Leaders from every sector have a role to play in communicating the critical need for preparation at home, within the workplace, and in our communities," Leavitt wrote.

HHS launched the blog to extend the value of the 1-day leadership conference, he said. "While the comments made on this blog may not always represent the views of the Department of Health and Human Services, we think there is value to having an open dialogue about this very important issue," he stated.

Greg Dworkin, MD, one of the editors of the FluWiki, an interactive pandemic planning Web site, is also a contributor to the HHS blog and has been invited to take part in the leadership forum. He told CIDRAP News that the blog is an innovative way to enlist public comments and bring different together groups that don't often have opportunities to interact.

"This won't provide all the answers; it is a communications experiment and should be seen as such—a small step rather than 'the solution'," said Dworkin, who is chief of pediatric pulmonology at Danbury Hospital in Danbury, Conn. "But anything that gets people communicating with each other on this topic is worth trying and worth supporting."

Some other contributors to the HHS blog are Georges C. Benjamin, MD, executive director of the American Public Health Association; Michael Coston, former paramedic and author of the "Avian Flu Diary" blog; Ann M. Beauchesne, head of the US Chamber of Commerce's homeland security division; and Pierre Omidyar, founder and chairman of eBay.

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