Friday, May 28, 2010

One year later Lessons from the HINI Pandemic: it all boils down to communication and trust

The following article on TIME talks about the lessons learned from the HINI pandemic and provides an interesting perspective on the government and media reactions to the H1N1 flu pandemic and the way forward.

Abstract: It’s been a year since H1N1. In April 2009, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) discovered that two children in California had been infected with a new strain of influenza virus — originally dubbed "swine flu" but eventually known as H1N1 . Even  Mexican health officials grappled with major outbreaks of a new flulike illness. By the end of the month, with new cases popping up in New York City, Canada and Europe, officials had come to realize they had a global emergency on their hands.

On April 27, 2009, World Health Organization (WHO) director-general Margaret Chan announced that the agency would raise the global flu pandemic alert level from 4 to 5 — the first concrete step toward acknowledging that the world was caught in the grip of its first new pandemic in more than four decades.
Within weeks, the H1N1 virus was spreading around the world, and by June the WHO had raised the alert level again, officially declaring influenza pandemic. Since most people had no immune protection against the H1N1 virus, it spread rapidly.
From the start, the vast majority of H1N1 cases seemed relatively mild, then governments around the world started drawing up hasty plans to fend off a potential "second wave" of H1N1, which they feared could turn into a public-health disaster.

Yet catastrophe never came, and the total U.S. death toll from H1N1 — about 13,000 people over the past year — was considerably smaller than the 36,000 people who are estimated to die each year from the regular, seasonal flu.
Millions of doses of H1N1 vaccine expired unused on doctors' shelves, and health officials are now under fire for overhyping what eventually seemed like a harmless bug. So, was H1N1 much ado about nothing?

The main concern going forward should not be the way health officials responded to the last pandemic but how we will respond to the next one!

The perception that officials overhyped and overreacted to the H1N1 pandemic may make the public less inclined to react appropriately the next time around. The only way to defuse public skepticism is for health officials to communicate better what they know about an outbreak — and even more important, what they don't know about it. Washington officials did an admirable job putting out information in the early days of the H1N1 pandemic, but they were less successful at putting that information in context. There wasn't enough explanation of what a "pandemic" really meant: that it referred only to the transmissibility of the new virus, not its virulence.

Leaving interpretation of the data to the media, whose coverage tends to swing between extremes, is not a good idea. In an age of Twitter and transparency, there's no substitute for official honesty. "Communication in 2010 is a really tricky situation," says Anne Schuchat, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. "This was the first pandemic done in the age of the Internet." Chances are it won't be the last — but if we learn from H1N1, at least we'll be prepared.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Should social networks be banned in the office?

Social networking has generally been discouraged at many offices with many  IT departments blocking access to sites like Facebook , Twitter, MySpace due to privacy concerns. These efforts seem futile considering how much the communication landscape has changed  in the last 2-3 years and all thanks to  social networks such as twitter. Our lives are impacted by social networks in many ways. We get news within seconds  and can stay tuned in with the latest updates.They help us to connect and engage with our friends,family, business associates and audiences -current and potential. The advantages are multiple: you can interact , promote/expand a business, look for a job, network , create awareness about a cause...the list goes on. In fact, if you re not on the web; you're missing out! 
Offices may have had good reasons to ban these networks before but not now.
 3 points  to consider:
1.If  workers interact with one another on social networks while in the office, this could spur ideas for future networking opportunities that aim to facilitate communication and increase productivity .
2.Social Networking sites have opened a whole way for people to express ,interact and release  stress.
3.Rather than blocking sites, shouldn’t the management encourage their employees to interact, express their views on such sites and yet be loyal to their deadline and works?
Social networking sites are banned at Imprimis as well and we want to hear from the Imprimis employees. 
What’s your opinion? Should the ban be lifted? Yes/No?