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Helping Rural Communities Prepare for Pandemics

Drawing on lessons from the 1918 influenza pandemic and on current research about pandemic preparedness, GSPH joined with the Center for Rural Health Practice of the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford (UPB) to help rural communities prepare for and respond to a pandemic health crisis. A meeting of the Robert L. Jackson Inn of Court in Bradford, Pennsylvania, on June 2, 2008, brought together public health experts, experts on local ordinances, and judges from rural Pennsylvania counties to discuss possible responses to a widespread disease outbreak.

GSPH Dean Donald S. Burke, MD, attended the meeting, whose topic was “The Municipal Response to  Infectious Diseases: What You Can Do to Prepare Your Communities.” More than 40 municipal solicitors, school officials, and health care providers from five rural Pennsylvania counties—McKean, Cameron, Elk, Forest, and Warren—attended. Also present were a state public health official and UPB officials and staff.

Dean Burke’s presentation was titled “Epidemiological Judo: Exploiting Influenza’s Epidemic Strengths and Weaknesses.” McKean County Common Pleas Court President Judge John Cleland’s presentation answered the question, “Can History Repeat? Lessons from the 1918 Flu Pandemic in Kane and How You Can Prepare Today.”

The discussion that followed the presentations revealed concern for amplifying the legal authority of municipalities to prepare for a possible future flu pandemic. UPB’s Center for Rural Health Practice is committed to continuing this work with rural officials.


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