!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> Streamline Training & Documentation: "The Great Influenza" VI: Keeping the Public Informed

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

"The Great Influenza" VI: Keeping the Public Informed

In a 2009 afterword to his 2004 book, The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History, John M. Barry reiterates one of his main themes:

... of all the lessons from 1918, the clearest is that truth matters. A specialty among public relations consultants has evolved in recent decades called “risk communication.” I don’t much care for the term. It implies managing the truth. You don’t manage the truth. You tell the truth.

In the first months of this [2009 H1N1] pandemic that does not seem to have been a lesson well-learned, The U.S. government and the World Health Organization have told the truth candidly, as soon as they have learned it. But other countries have been less forthright. Perhaps the worst offender has been China, whose Health Minister Chen Zhu declared, “We are confident and capable of preventing and containing an H1N1 influenza epidemic.”

This impossibility brought to mind uncomfortable echoes of 1918. Fortunately, as the pandemic has progressed, even China has at least incrementally approached telling the truth, and perhaps Chinese citizens read between the lines. [p.460]