Archive for Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Focus group to discuss flu plans

November 15, 2006

Many medical experts and organizations have said it is a matter of when, not if, the next flu pandemic strikes. In 1918 and 1919, between 20 and 40 million people -- including about 675,000 in the United States -- died as a result of a flu pandemic.

This Monday, Bonner Springs and Edwardsville citizens can help local efforts to prepare for a pandemic flu. At the Bonner Springs Community Center, 200 E. Third St., Dan Blom, a consultant for the Mid-America Regional Council, will conduct a focus group to gauge probable reactions to local organizations' actions in the face of an influenza pandemic.

Blom said the point of the focus group, which will be an open citizens' meeting, is to have a facilitated discussion "to find out what drives their decision making" during a public crisis. MARC will hold several meetings like the Nov. 20 one throughout the Kansas City metropolitan area during November, then compile that information and work with the health departments of the eight member counties of MARC --Wyandotte, Leavenworth and Johnson counties in Kansas and Cass, Clay, Jackson, Platte and Ray County, Mo. -- to develop a coordinated action plan that takes into account likely citizen responses to government directions.

The Nov. 20 discussion will include ways in which the community can stop or slow the spread of influenza, how to treat infected persons, and how the community can continue to operate necessary services in the event of an influenza pandemic.

Blom said the need for such discussions became apparent in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. There, when people were directed to shelters where animals were not allowed, some residents stayed at home, and so died with their pets.

"The idea is, if we don't know their values and motivations, the plan doesn't accommodate those issues," Blom said.

He added, "There are a couple things to get at: What are the main concerns and issues ... and what kind of instructions are they not likely to follow."

Blom said for the focus group to be maximally effective "we want as wide a range of people as we possibly can get -- we're interested in business perspective, young parents, people who may be in the more affected populations" of a flu pandemic.

"This is really trying to get all perspectives," he said.

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