Health Care in Developing Nations Public Policy

Avian Flu: What should be done

Economist Tyler Cowen of George Mason University has an interesting paper (“Avian Flu: What should be done“) on the optimal policy to combat avian flu.  Below, I cite a few of the more interesting points from his executive summary:

  • Prepare social norms and emergency procedures which would limit or delay the spread of a pandemic. Regular hand washing, and other beneficial public customs, may save more lives than a Tamiflu stockpile
  • Decentralize our supplies of anti-virals and treat timely distribution as more important than simply creating a stockpile.
  •  Make economic preparations to ensure the continuity of food and power supplies. The relevant “choke pointsâ€? may include the check clearing system and the use of mass transit to deliver food supply workers to their jobs.
  • We should not rely on quarantines and mass isolations. Both tend to be counterproductive and could spread rather than limit a pandemic.
  • We should not obsess over avian flu at the expense of other medical issues. The next pandemic or public health crisis could come from any number of sources. By focusing on local preparedness and decentralized responses, this plan is robust to surprise and will also prove useful for responding to terrorism or natural catastrophes.