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Minister in the real world: Treating the public like grownups

by: Jody Lanard

Mon Jun 01, 2009 at 15:38:57 PM EDT

wonderful analysis -DemFromCT

Here is how it sounds when an official treats the public like grownups.
Jody Lanard :: Minister in the real world: Treating the public like grownups
On April 24, U.S. CDC acting Director Richard Besser put a profoundly respectful and human framework around his justifiably alarming announcement that the initial cases of swine flu identified in the U.S. were from the same strain as that causing the apparently severe outbreak in Mexico -- the first U.S.announcement that a potential pandemic virus had emerged and was spreading from human to human.

I have since used Dr. Besser's remarkable statement as an exercise, in risk communication workshops with officials from about ten countries.

Participants annotate the statement according to this list of crisis communication recommendations from Crisis Communication: Guidelines for Action, and they try to imagine being this candid and human in their own communications. Many of them find the statement very moving, and very unusual.

Dr. Besser: Before I talk about the cases and specific actions, I want to recognize some initial guiding concepts.
First I want to recognize that people are concerned about this situation.  We hear from the public and from others about their concern, and we are worried, as well.  Our concern has grown since yesterday in light of what we've learned since then.
I want to acknowledge the importance of uncertainty.  At the early stages of an outbreak, there's much uncertainty, and probably more than everyone would like.
Our guidelines and advice our likely to be interim and fluid, subject to change as we learn more.
We're moving quickly to learn as much as possible and working with many local state and international partners to do so.  I want to recognize that while we're moving fast, it's very likely that this will be more of a marathon than a sprint.
I want to acknowledge change.  Our recommendations, advice, approaches will likely change as we learn more about the virus and we learn more about its transmission.

I want to acknowledge that we're likely to see local approaches to controlling the spread of this virus, and that's important; that can be beneficial; that can teach us things that we want to use in other parts of the country and that other people in other places may find useful.
Because things are changing, because flu viruses are unpredictable and because there will be local adaptation, it's likely that any given moment there will be confusing - or may be confusing or conflicting information available.  We are very committed to minimizing and that where we find that, clearing up any of that misconception.

Later in the briefing he said:
There has been a lot of business planning going on around if there were a pandemic what would businesses do? School planning around what would they do.  This is the time for people to be thinking about that.

And, again, it's not because we have information that this will develop into a pandemic strain but it's a time where there is a teachable moment and people can take some action around preparedness.
Officials in many countries, including the U.S., have missed many pre-pandemic and pandemic teachable  moments since then.

Preparedness messages have been muted, compared with the messages about individual and community preparedness issued during HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt's tenure.

But Dr. Besser did a spectacular job of framing the initial alarming announcement, and what is most noticeable is that it did not produce any panic.

Some early and brief "over-reactions" occurred, and were poorly tolerated by officials.

These reactions, and the initial brief massive public attention were called "hysteria" and "panic" by the media.

But there was no actual panic -- just the public going through adjustment reactions, which have been disrespected by most officials and the media, as usual.
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"Teachable Moment" ... NOT
Dr Besser said: "There has been a lot of business planning going on around if there were a pandemic what would businesses do? School planning around what would they do.  This is the time for people to be thinking about that."

While I agree that Dr Besser's words were extremely well chosen, may I suggest that he failed miserably in expressing anything but a series of disclaimers. He eloquintly stated the obvious and left us standing there wondering what role we are to play as the situation plays out. Are we to assume that "This is the time for people to be thinking about that." is a thinly veiled call to arms? In light of our current understanding of what could happen in the Fall, has Dr Besser or Dr Chan (WHO) made any less "veiled" suggestions? .... NO

You wrote: "But Dr. Besser did a spectacular job of framing the initial alarming announcement, and what is most noticeable is that it did not produce any panic."

As you know (because I know you read Peter Sandman's writings), short of Godzilla appearing in LA, there will be no panic. The more likely result of Dr Besser's "kit gloved" approach is Denial and Apathy. He failed to complete his well crafted statement with a crystal clear message to John Q Public about what may be expected of him. His message was too long on I's and We's, and way to short on You's.

To date, I think Dr Besser missed several "Teachable Moments". If H1N1 revisits us in the near future as anything more virulent than what it currently is, the window of opportunity for people like Dr Besser to "step up to the plate" is shrinking. I'd rather hear the COMPLETE message in Dr Besser's well crafted writing style.

There will be no meaningful "Adjustment Reactions" until Dr Bessmer and people in responsible positions like him stop dispensing information laced with Valium.

Tell me what you know, not what you think I need to know.

Totally agree: "Dr. Besser missed several 'Teachable Moments' "

I certainly agree that meaningful (I wrote that first with a typo: "meaningflu!") "adjustment reactions" won't happen as long as officials cheerfully emphasize coughing into your sleeve (the "Kindness of Strangers" approach to reducing flu transmission) and hand washing (which seems to address only a small percentage of flu transmission).

And officials obliviously induce helpless feelings in the huge number of basically healthy people who have "underlying conditions", instructing such people to "avoid crowded places" -- what, for the next two years?

I posted Dr. Besser's wonderful "Day 1" statement because I strongly wanted to highlight how it sounds when an official DOES do open, alarming, candid communication that appropriately treats people like adults.

I want officials to do far more of that -- and "more" includes helping people visualize pandemics of varying severity or impact, affecting various populations (immunocompromised sub-Saharan Africans, malnourished Sudanese and Zimbabweans, etc.).

Yes, of course I read (and often co-author) Peter Sandman's writings. Here are the two articles we have been most strongly urging officials to read in recent weeks:

Our 2007 article What to say when a pandemic looks imminent: Messaging for WHO Phases 4 and 5, and Peter's Swine Flu Crisis:
The Government Is Preparing for the Worst While Hoping for the Best - It Needs to Tell the Public to Do the Same Thing!

[ Parent ]
Grown up enough to prepare?
Especially on a comparative level, I agree that Dr. Besser's presentation modeled quite a few of the best practices for such a crisis communication, but there was at least one fairly major omission.

He mentioned government planning, business planning, and school planning.  

Did he leave anything important out?  

Plan & Prepare

Families & Individuals
Health Care
State & Local


As a teachable moment on pandemic preparedness, I really could not imagine a time when you might find a more attentive audience of a message encouraging people to educate themselves and take action to prepare themselves and their families for a pandemic.

Even if the action recommended had been small and to many of us here woefully inadequate, such a message would have been worthwhile for no other reason than to give the public some modest mechanism to exert their own control over an otherwise uncontrollable event and by doing so demystify it and empower themselves.

I could have understood such a failure of an official like Dr. Besser 5 or 6 years ago (before the highly vetted and comprehensive officially sanctioned messages were all packaged in one place.)  I would not have agreed with the failure, but it would have had some excuse.

Now, not so much.  

And if anxiety management was at the base of this omission, I guess maybe Dr Besser needs to review a key part of the "Public Reactions and Teachable Moments" article:

Crisis managers often find even modest levels of public fear intolerable, which may be why they interpret the fear as panic. The public, on the other hand, can usually tolerate its own fear fairly well, especially if there are things we can do to protect ourselves (as psychiatrists and soldiers have long recognized, action binds anxiety).


The only real action recommended was "here's where to keep track of the progress of this virus".  

We've created a web page with information and updates.  We encourage the public and the media to visit this web site for information.  It's cdc.gov/flu/swine.  But you can get it from our main web site; there's a link there.  We also have a CDC information line that's set up, and that's 1-800-CDC-INFO.


How hard would it have been for him to add:

I want to repeat what I said before, we do not know whether this swine flu virus or some other influenza virus will lead to the next pandemic; however, scientists around the world continue to monitor the virus and take its threat seriously. For more general information about what has been done to prepare for a pandemic and what you can do to help protect yourself, your family and your community, you can go to the pandemicflu.gov website


the official pandemic preparedness website of the United States Government.

The fact that he (and pretty much every other government official) seemed to suffer from sudden pandemnesia about the official government pandemic education and preparedness website at the beginning of an actual pandemic is such a glaring omission that it is difficult to characterize as accidental.

So, when someone like Dr. Bresser, who obviously incorporated many of the other "Teachable Moment" principles into his approach leaves this one critical principle on the cutting room floor, inquiring minds would really like to understand "why"?

I'd be interested in your take on the possible answer.  

ITW(Joel J)
Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear - not absence of fear.
- Mark Twain

Best guess? Fear of fear, and fear of being accused of fear-mongering

You have quoted some of the same parts of pandemicflu.gov that we have been quoting back to officials endlessly, for weeks.

And look at this marvelous page from the CDC's own Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication manual for a pandemic, entitled Community Hardiness and Personal Resilience.

It emphasizes giving people things to do for themselves and others, and expecting more from people!

Peter recently hypothesized that in addition to their undue fear of scaring the public (which translates to: "the government doesn't think it can lead the public through rough times"), officials may also be terrified of being accused of fear-mongering.

If the pandemic becomes more severe, imagine the post-pandemic Senate Hearings on "Why didn't CDC and HHS push harder for the public to prepare, during Phase 5 and the early part of the pandemic when it was still mild?"

I would like top officials to imagine now what they will say then.


[ Parent ]
There is no reassurance
... in knowing that the world cannot muster the gumption to call a pandemic a pandemic or to advise people to plan and prepare for a second wave.

[ Parent ]
Like the Highway Dept. not printing signs saying "Bridge Out"
because they don't want to scare people.  "Ohh, can't think about that...."   Like they believe in magical thinking: if we don't plan for it, it won't happen.  Yeah, right.

"The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it."  Flannery O'Connor

[ Parent ]
Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal Award
They get my nomination.

To calm the wife buy cases of chocolate, to calm the husband buy cases of booze, and to calm the children...... heck the booze and chocolate should work.

[ Parent ]
Oh wait, Toronto Public Health gets that award

To calm the wife buy cases of chocolate, to calm the husband buy cases of booze, and to calm the children...... heck the booze and chocolate should work.

[ Parent ]
Toronto: Take a lesson from Singapore and New York City!

The essence of risk communication is that it is two-way communication. Toronto should learn from the experience of New York City (swine flu) and Singapore (SARS), and respond to parents' rational desire for information and/or action.

May 21 2009:

"Bowing to pressure from politicians, teachers and parents, the [New York City] Department of Education today will begin posting daily attendance rates for all public schools on its Web site:  schools.nyc.gov/ Home/Spotlight/closures.htm."

March 26, 2003:  Two weeks after China's SARS cover-up failed, Singapore responded to parental pressure to close schools. In a "Joint Press Release By Ministry Of Education And Ministry Of Health,"  officials stated:

As an additional precautionary measure in response to concerns expressed by parents on the recent SARS cases, the Ministry of Education (MOE) and Ministry of Health (MOH) have decided to close all primary schools, secondary schools, junior colleges and centralised institutes from Thursday, 27 March 2003 to Sunday, 6 April 2003.


On purely medical grounds, there are currently no strong reasons for closing all schools. However, principals and general practitioners have reported that parents continue to be concerned about the risk to their children in schools. MOE and MOH hope that this additional precautionary step to close schools will address parents' concerns and further reassure them.

A post-SARS study showed that

"public opinion of authorities' openness to communication was correlated with taking preventive measures."

Hear that, Toronto?

[ Parent ]
tempted to take things in our own hands, or what?
Tiny hands, I know.

Still thinking.

You arm yourself to the teeth just in case.  You don't leave the gun near the baby's hand.

[ Parent ]
A beer for your thoughts.
Your statement made me wonder if maybe this is a good time to for the volunteer flu community to clearly step out ahead of the establishment. At least in terms of its intention to "be straight" with the people.

This is a damned pandemic and we know it. I think most of us have essentially no doubt the establishment knows it, too.

By any chance does any of your thinking include finding a way for "us" to speak out effectively as a group?  

[ Parent ]
CDC Heal Thyselves & WWTDFTOF
I'm sure you are both getting horse from your efforts.  But I think you and Peter may be right about the source of this behavior and even though these are professionals and leaders who are supposedly immune,  maybe in planning for and communicating about a pandemic they are vulnerable to some of same human responses that they predict will occur in the public during a severe pandemic.

First, a comment on the CDC website which is excellent; so much so that they might consider focussing some of it back on themselves.

Second, in addition to your question of what will they say "then" I have another question for our leaders:  WWTDFTOF?

CDC's CERC Training Presentation

It seems that the CDC agrees that in training others to talk a good game, one should acknowledge and address personal and family resilience not only for the tangible good it might do but also for the pyschological good it might do for both individuals and society.

Yet the same sociological challenges that this training for CERC (Crisis Emergency Risk Communication) says may appear in the community and increase infection rates, are also appearing today in the conduct of these officials:  denial, refusal to alter behaviors, expecting the burden of (preparing for or urging others to prepare for) mitigation to be borne by others, expressing concern about the risk, but not altering their behaviors (at least about recommending individual and family preparedness.)

There also appears to be fear of stigmitization, from being infected with "fear-mongering".  The training identifies two methods for reducing such stigmitization:

1.  Raise awareness and understanding among the dominant group about stigmitization or

2.  Wait for the pandemic to become so pervasive within society that it removes the ability to identify previously stigmized characteristics.

Of the two, I believe the first would be most effective in addressing Fear-phobia or the Chicken Little Phobia within our leadership.

The following comes from the training and yet seems strangely applicable to what our leaders should do:

The following psychological resources protect victims of disaster: coping efforts, self-efficacy, mastery, percieved control, self-esteem, hope and optimism.

Before they can lead us to find those resources, perhaps they need to take some time to gather these resources for themselves and apply them to their own role as leaders.

What Would They Do For Their Own Families?

Lastly, I have this question to those whose job it is, whose professional and ethical responsiblity it is, to prepare us for the potential of a severe wave of this pandemic or of a pandemic that might yet arise:

What are you doing for your own family and what are you recommending for your own family?

Are you telling them to prepare?  
Have you prepared for your own family?

Are you doing your job, are you meeting your professional and ethical responsibilities, by doing less for the public who is depending on you for advice and direction?

Can you live with yourself if you do less?

We've been making this argument for years and it is evident that we will need to keep mowing that grass on a continuing basis.

Our leaders must be willing to call on the people to respond with courage in facing the stark realities of what a pandemic could bring in order to prepare the people to to face with courage the pandemic itself. Our ancestors conquered the more frequent perils of their day because they believed and were not afraid.  If called upon we can and will do the same.  But I believe we must be called and that our leaders must sound that call.


ITW(Joel J)
Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear - not absence of fear.
- Mark Twain

[ Parent ]
Your Comment: is far better than my Diary, and will get well-used.


[ Parent ]
not fear of fear-mongering
joe biden got in trouble for telling the
world his personal opinion.

i think there is also a fear of LITIGATION.
this is stopping release of details on school

fear of HEADS ROLLING if officials in china mishandle
the outbreak may be driving
their fierce quarantine  rules (which i don't think
will be effective)

i will be going to china this summer and am more
worried about getting quarantined somewhere without
bottled water than i am about getting swine flu
which has already gone thru my kids school.
i also noted the travel medical insurance states
Australian insurance companies have also warned about
pandemic clauses in health insurance.
Who knows what legal headaches we are creating with
a pandemic level 6 and severity level 1 .....

[ Parent ]
Those legal headaches
As far as I'm concerned, the possibility of 'legal headaches' has to play second fiddle to the possibility of worse things happening if the truth isn't told about the real state of pandemic influenza.

If you're going to China, I hope you're prepared to deal with the possibiity of not being able to leave China, and of the frightening (to me) possibility of needing medical care while there.

Just because you didn't have any problems, apparently, when the virus was present in your kids school doesn't mean the virus won't mutate into a far worse form (or possibly a better form), and it's also possible that we've been lulled into a sense of false security by all the talk about how "mild" the strain is, and the sense that the media is falling all over themselves to relay that it's really no big problem.

It could be a tremendous problem - and I'd not be traveling this year unless I were going somewhere I felt safer than I do here, that had a higher standard of medical care, and I had a pocketfull of Tamiflu/Relenza as well as some broad spectrum antibiotics.

I know other people see things far differently than I do, but I am not convinced that we've dodged any theoretical bullets, no matter how often I hear someone say it's so.

I think for WHO to declare Phase 6 pandemic alert would be totally appropriate at this time - actually, I thought it would have been appropriate before now, and is overdue.  If the virulence strengthens, if a lot of "ifs" come to pass, whatever legal headaches you are envisioning could well become quite  unimportant when compared with the problems associated with simply staying alive.

[ Parent ]
Insurance Not Likely Dependant on "Pandemic"
Years ago, when big business started taking this issue as or more seriously than government, we started seeing this kind of language sneak into "act of God" clauses that excuse performance under contracts, including insurance contracts.

I have seen more than a few, including policies covering business interruption, that gave the insurance company an out based on lanugage that could easily meet the reality of the current outbreak, with or without a WHO declaration.

It might be the icing on the cake, but that's all Phase 6 would be - especially since the level of our official National Response Stage is well into what would match Phase 6.  

ITW(Joel J)
Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear - not absence of fear.
- Mark Twain

[ Parent ]
insurance escape clauses
I a agree that we are already in legally unclear
  As for traveling to China, I may cancel last minute.
Believe me I am scouring flu news for info every day.
I can cancel because for me it is "optional".
But what about business travelers? cargo ships
carrying hospital supplies, say, or food for when your
prepped stuff runs out, or food and SIP supplies so all the people who haven't prepped can do so before fall..... WHO should worry about impacting all kinds of things when they go to level 6
 IMO there is little chance that I will have access to Tamiflu or typical US hospital care when h5n1 goes pandemic or swine flu turns ugly,
regardless of whether I'm traveling or home in the US.
I don't of course want to get stranded
in China, but to guage that possibility i should read
articles about china's response to swine flu, not
whatever single number WHO assigns to its spread or
severity,,,, Full press releases are more useful than
a number 5 or 6

[ Parent ]
National Response Trumps WHO #
I absolutely agree, because national responses already have both forged ahead of and lagged behind the officially announced WHO Pandemic Phase level.

Even WHO's response has not been predicated on its own Phase level, as it openly announced would be the case years ago.

ITW(Joel J)
Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear - not absence of fear.
- Mark Twain

[ Parent ]
Watch for two words . . .
"Force majeure" - French for "superior force".

In lots of legal documents, contracts, insurance, etc., there's a pair of words, usually in the small print:  "Force majeure" - roughly translated as an act of god . . . I've actually had people brush it off when questioned as, oh, it's just legalese.

I think pandemic will put this clause into effect without much question - and everyone should be looking for those two words when doing anything legal these days, from buying travel insurance that they think will somehow protect them to entering into other supposedly legally binding contracts.

[ Parent ]
someone please create a cartoon
with a couple of Mercedes Benz safety engineers.  One of them close to a screen where there's a dummy car crash playing in slow mo, crying, and saying "oh, I just can't tolerate looking at worst cases".

Boy, you're paid to do it.  And parents do it all the time.

Ok, so people will tell us we don't just need to look at worst cases and worst cases alone.  There's a whole repertoire of possibilities.

And we're now learning, when we look at all flavours of "school closure", there's a whole repertoire of actions too.

So we need to teach science and flexibility.  We need to explain how pandemics work, what range of futures there is, what to do then, what to do now.

As usual, we could use validation from the top.  If they don't want to validate worst cases only, they could at least validate the whole range, and let people do as they see fit.

Did I say they "could"?  Sorry.  They should.  IMHO.

The time to makes mistakes in public communication, and learn from them, is now.  Today.

You arm yourself to the teeth just in case.  You don't leave the gun near the baby's hand.

as far as Richard Besser goes
(can't say the same about others) I don't believe it is a communication issue.  The gap identified by many here, about telling the public about personal preparedness, is IMHO a policy issue, not a communication one.

Someone has decided, at least for now, that they are not going to tell people to prepare according to what is already recommended on pandemicflu.gov.  It actually is quite a feat, you know, to have that stuff on the website and be so skillful in talking AROUND it or avoiding it altogether, rather than just simply communicate with the public what the USG's recommendation is, with regards to personal preparedness.

The single most unambiguous statement made on this issue was from Secy Sebelius, that "we don't recommend stockpiling".  Since no one has since clarified or contradicted her statement, and since all statements made on the record by senior officials should be construed as policy, I can only conclude that the current policy in the US government, is to NOT recommend stockpiling, for 3 days, 2 weeks, or however long.  Just NOT recommending it, full stop.

Whether we think that is wise, ethical, responsible policy or not, that is the reality.  At least for this very specific issue, I believe framing it as a communication issue misses the point.  

All 'safety concerns' are hypothetical.  If not, they'd be called side effects...

it is actually
a very simple question.  No if's or but's about it.  Does the US government think people should set aside extra food water, essential medicines etc in anticipation of possible supply chain disruptions in a pandemic, or does it not?

I/we have asked that question many times.  I believe Secy Sebelius's statement is as clear as it gets.

In the interest of transparency and accountability, the Obama administration should make very clear whether the position as expressed on pandemicflu.gov, and in the Take the Lead campaign, still stands.  If yes, why is the head of HHS actively giving out a different message?  If not, then why not?

btw, as far as I remember, the link to the Take the Lead pages used to be prominently displayed in the sidebar on the frontpage.  Now you have to search around for it.  Coincidence?  Could be...

All 'safety concerns' are hypothetical.  If not, they'd be called side effects...

[ Parent ]
I have serious doubts that it is coincidence.

I think the whole matter is being played down for all it's worth and then some - and I agree that two different messages are currently on the table and that it should be made clear which is to be followed.

I see the Secretary's statement as a statement of declared policy - and one of the most outrageous things I've heard.
Joe Biden made a lot more sense, before they put the gag on him.

[ Parent ]
for those who missed it
Secy Sebelius's "we don't recommend stockpiling" statement is here, at 19 min http://www.pandemicflu.gov/new...

All 'safety concerns' are hypothetical.  If not, they'd be called side effects...

[ Parent ]
Policy Not to Advocate Preparing?
I can understand that in the first uncertain weeks of the outbreak, when the fear-phobia was undoubtedly infecting many of our government officials as they huddled together to assess the threat and our national responses, they may have found the official US policy on individual and family preparation that had been developed painstakingly over many years to be uncharacteristically robust.

The desire not to amplify the public's immediate emotional response and the desire not to ignite a wave of urgent buying (notwithstanding the positive impact that wavelet could have had on economic stimulus efforts) might have carried enough weight a month ago to result in both the affirmative policy of "don't stockpile" and the negative policy decision to "get that damn PSA telling people to stock up for 2 weeks" down off our CDC website.

But what possible excuse do they have for maintaining that policy now, especially when it is in direct conflict with the general hazard preparedness messages that are still going out from state and local officials on everything from hurricane to tornado to earthquake preparedness?

This is not just a rant-question.  I am asking dead serious what they might be thinking.  What could their rationale be for not advocating the established official US policy on personal and family preparedness?  (We need to look beyond the kinds of fear-phobia or fear of chicken little stigmitization we talked about above, to figure out what reasoning these officials are giving themselves and each other for this unprecedented break from a public policy developed over a number of years with a unique level of citizen and community engagement.)

The last administration started in much the same place as we see now on personal and family preparedness.  But over time and with much prodding from the large number of stakeholders that were involved, that administration incorporated family and individual preparedness as an intergal part of the national response plan.

Now, when push comes to shove, a new administration with some of its appointees still painfully fresh on the job, is going to just scrap all that work by all those ordinary citizens, all those communities,  all those experts from all those various fields and go back to the pre-H5N1 days of "don't scare the children"?   Bullpucky!

If we are to do what we can to change their minds, we must understand where those minds are on this question.


ITW(Joel J)
Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear - not absence of fear.
- Mark Twain

[ Parent ]
Food Speculation--Prepping
Perhaps they no longer want to recommend stockpiling because last year saw rampant speculation in food and fuel, resulting in riots and famine in various parts of the world.
 Still, I watched the video where they specifically advised against prepping and got upset. what in the world are they thinking?
 Didn't they shut down stores and businesses in Mexico City? Are we to assume that would never ever happen here?


[ Parent ]
Financial Speculation - Not Family Stockpiling
I suppose it is possible it might have such an impact, but last year's price spikes seemed to have more to do with the manipulations of heavy financial hitters (institutional and individual) from the investor class who were refugees from the derivative meltdown and were looking for either shelter or their next big score.  

While those same class of investors might have pushed up the food markets if the 2-wk prep announcement had been made in the first uncertain weeks of this outbreak, I cannot imagine them thinking a government call to prep now would be reason to make such a long shot bet.

The reason I say this is the same reason I find the government's fear of "panic buying" irrational.  They over-estimate their own power to persuade the people to take action.

Government has advised us to stockpile from 3 days to 2 weeks of essential food and supplies for many years with only marginal success.  Even after 9-11, the response of preparing was exhibited by fewer people than expected and for many did not last very long.

Even a major government-sponsored publicity push, lets say bringing in Sesame characters for heavy rotation prime time PSAs based on the short-lived CDC message to prep for 2 weeks, would not result in a magic seismic shift of the public's attitude towards a more mature and responsible approach to preparing for the potential of future threats.

That's why it is important to start the message now and repeat it often, first because this outbreak has opened up a crack into which such informtion might get past the normal barriers of apathy to compete with the barrage of other messages directed at people's senses, and second, so this call to prepare for "just in case" is not just an alarm bell sounded in crisis but a steady and persistent call for the people to adopt a new principle of mature responsibility by which they can live and protect themselves from danger.

And like no other such call I know, this call to prepare could be made on the basis that such responsibility was not only to protect and preserve themselves, but also their families, their communities and their country, because without the capacity to implement community mitigation, and without a vaccine there is nothing standing between us and a more virulent wave of this or any other pandemic.  

ITW(Joel J)
Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear - not absence of fear.
- Mark Twain

[ Parent ]
food futures
i didn't mean to imply that family prepping would directly drive up food prices, i meant big hitters in the futures markets would drive up prices.  We're told to prep so that
we can SIP, but also to be prepared for temporary shortages. Rumours of shortages led to hoarding of rice, rapid inflation and then real famine in Bengal 1943 (see work of Nobel Laurate Amartya Sen). The rumour in Bengal was that the government was exporting rice to its troops during WWII, and  investors saw  a unique investment opportunity. Once hoarding started, the price of rice did go up. The stores were empty because the rice was not released from large warehouses and granaries. The lack of rice in markets and stores lent more credence to rumours. Those hoarding were not forced to reliquish grain, and ~ 3 million died, unable to afford the little rice that was available at exorbitant prices.
   Maybe instead of talking about pandemics, the goal of more food and supplies in the house could be better achieved by stressing the "green" aspects of fewer and bigger shopping trips (less driving) or stressing home economics (save money by learning how to cook at home! save money buying in bulk!)  

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