Paul Forster, of the STEPS Centre, a global research and policy center funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, investigated the H1N1 swine flu pandemic of 2009/2010 and said lessons from the last pandemic show planning for the next pandemic should be different.
Science, public health policy makers and the worldwide public were confounded in 2009/2010 by the uncertainty, complexity and politics of pandemic influenza and the high emotions it inspires. Amid this confusion, the global and national institutions responsible for protecting public health were shown to be over-reliant on a reductive, science-led approach that prioritized a one-size-fits-all response, and failed to address the needs and priorities of the world's poorest and most vulnerable people.
"Preparing for an influenza pandemic means preparing for surprises and being ready to respond rapidly and flexibly under conditions of uncertainty. If people across the globe are to be ready, plural and diverse response pathways are required," Forster said in a statement. "The world would be better protected by a re-ordering of pandemic preparedness and response efforts around the needs of the world's poorest, most vulnerable and most exposed people."
A re-ordered response would allow the undue pre-eminence of pharmaceuticals to be examined, and bring focus on the pressing need for disease surveillance in animals, scrutiny of contemporary agricultural practices and a broadening of research efforts, Forster suggested.