Saturday, September 17, 2005

Katrina and bird flu: better than a whack in the head?

We learn from the excellent reporting of Canadian Press's Helen Branswell that the Canadian government will host a meeting next month of health ministers from more than twenty developed and developing countries to coordinate efforts around bird flu. The Canadians understand that helping the developing world is also central to protecting the developed nations.
A critical element of the meeting will be identifying ways to help developing countries shore up their responses to a flu pandemic, said a senior government official, who asked not to be identified.

Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh has been working for months to persuade counterparts in key countries of the need for such a meeting, arguing that developed nations need to help less wealthy countries as sort of "forward offence initiative," the source said.

"The importance of global co-ordination on this is paramount," he said.

"It's a file [sic] that the world is facing. Not just Canada. And to do it in isolation makes little or no sense. A global issue ... warrants a global response. And that's the key point with the minister."
Dosanjh is expected to formally announce the meeting later this week.
This meeting is specifically for health ministers. The US reportedly will attend. Dosanj has been trying to arrange it since last November.
[The source] said a recent conversation between Dosanjh and U.S. Health Secretary Michael Leavitt clinched the meeting, which Dosanjh first broached with WHO Director General Lee Jong-wook last November.

Leavitt and Dosanjh were discussing U.S. needs related to the Hurricane Katrina relief efforts and Dosanjh pointed out how the disaster underscores the importance of accelerating planning for a pandemic.
I guess you could call this a "teachable moment." If whacking them over the head with a two-by-four doesn't do it, I guess the next step is a Category 5 Hurricane.