Flu :: HHS Pandemic Leadership Forum Mobilizes Employer, Faith-Based, Health Care and Civic Leaders

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) today assembled 100 influential leaders from the employer, faith-based, civic and health care communities to participate in a forum to help Americans become more prepared for an influenza pandemic.

The Pandemic Influenza Leadership Forum is part of a new national campaign sponsored by HHS, to encourage people to prepare for a possible pandemic. Using messages and materials developed by HHS, leaders will provide the public with the essential steps necessary for personal pandemic flu preparedness.

?Preparing for an influenza pandemic is a shared responsibility,? HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said. ?By preparing now, individuals will be better able to deal with a pandemic, slow the spread of illness, and lessen the overall impact to themselves and to society.?

At the leadership forum, HHS recommended specific actions that participants need to take to help their community members prepare.

The steps include:

Communicate to your community that it is critical for everyone to prepare for possible pandemic flu.

Use tools and ideas provided by HHS to help reach your audience.

Encourage people now to: (1) Store extra food and other daily supplies to make it easier to stay home for a prolonged period of time; (2) Learn and practice proper hand washing; (3) Use safe cough and sneeze techniques to limit the spread of illnesses; and (4) Stay home and avoid others if you are sick.

Community organization leaders see the forum as valuable.

?Leadership at the community level is essential in encouraging people to prepare now for a pandemic flu,? said Susan Crosson-Knutson, program development department manager, International Association of Lions Clubs. ?Community leaders are in a unique position to help disseminate vital information which may save lives.?

?The role of the health care community in helping individuals prepare for a pandemic flu is critical,? said Dr. Joseph Bocchini, chair, Committee on Infectious Diseases, American Academy of Pediatrics. ?Health care providers can validate that the risk of a pandemic is very real and that taking steps to prepare is beneficial, especially for families and children.?

?We need to persuade communities that planning for a pandemic is reasonable, prudent and necessary. This is a simple objective, but an enormous task,? said Dr. Greg Dworkin, founding editor, FluWiki. ?And it can only be done as a whole community — everyone must play a part.?

The leadership forum is one of many activities in a new HHS campaign to promote personal preparedness. HHS is also hosting an online blog summit, continuing through June 27, on pandemic influenza preparedness. Participants represent some of the nation?s most influential business, health care, faith-based and community leaders. The five-week online event provides an opportunity for leaders to engage in an open conversation with each other and the public and shape thinking about how to communicate the critical need for preparedness at home and within workplaces and communities.

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