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Outbreak? Pandemic risk and risk management in the 21st century

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Public Debate
Tuesday 14 March, 6.30-8pm
Hong Kong Theatre, Clement House, LSE, Aldwych, London

As part of the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)'s Social Science Week 2006, the ESRC Centre for Analysis of Risk and Regulation is hosting a public debate at LSE on Pandemic Risk and Risk Management.

With the outbreak of the HN51 virus in a growing number of countries, this is a timely moment to consider the strengths and vulnerabilities of modern states, societies and economies in the management of pandemic risks.

Bubonic Plague, Cholera, Spanish Flu, SARS, HIV, Avian Flu. Pandemics - past, present and future? The catastrophic threats presented by pandemic scenarios periodically attract the prediction that it is "...not a matter of if, but when" society will confront yet another catastrophe. There is a distinct air of inevitability to pandemic risk.

Are modern societies with their wealth of scientific expertise better able to cope with pandemics than their predecessors? Or do pandemics still present us with catastrophic threats?

Pandemic scenarios are a unique setting for discussion of the significance and nature of risk management and regulatory practices. An expert panel will discuss such issues as:

  • How reliable are prophecies of pandemic risk? How proportionate are the corresponding political and public fears?
  • More importantly, are we prepared? How seriously should we take worst case, cataclysmic scenarios?
  • What might we learn from history about our relative capacity to foresee or manage future pandemics? What are the different social and organizational dimensions of planned responses to pandemic risk at local, national, and international levels?
  • Alternatively, is this simply another mass panic? Does the threat of a catastrophic pandemic only fuel collective anxieties and fears?
  • Are we misdirecting valuable and limited resources to unlikely crisis scenarios? Or do these pose consequences that are far beyond the normal capacity and expertise of government to manage with any confidence? Is this symbolic political treatment of a systemic and overwhelming threat?
  • What do these events tell us about the relationship between science and society?

Discussing these issues are:

  • Professor Peter Baldwin, professor of history at the University of California, Los Angeles.
  • Professor Thomas Abraham, director of the Public Health Media Project at the University of Hong Kong.
  • Professor John Oxford, professor of virology at St Bartholomew's and the Royal London Hospital, Queen Mary's School of Medicine and Dentistry; scientific director of Retroscreen Virology Ltd.
  • David Frediani, executive director of MMC International, Marsh & McLennan Companies, Inc. (MMC).

Outbreak? Pandemic Risk and Risk Management in the 21st Century is on Tuesday 14 March at 6.30pm in the Hong Kong Theatre, Clement House, LSE, Aldwych, London. This event is free and open to all with no ticket required.

Ends

To reserve a press seat, please contact:

Speakers may be available to brief media before the event between 4.30pm and 6pm. f you wish to attend, please contact the event organisers.

Notes

Outbreak? Pandemic Risk and Risk Management in the 21st Century is a public debate at LSE hosted by the ESRC Centre for Analysis of Risk and Regulation as part of the ESRC's Social Science Week 2006.

Biographies

Peter Baldwin is professor of history at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is author of Contagion and the State in Europe, 1830-1930 (Cambridge, 1999), Disease and Democracy: the industrialized world faces AIDS (University of California Press, 2005), and The Politics of Social Solidarity: class bases of the European welfare state, 1875-1975 (Cambridge, 1990).

Professor Thomas Abraham is director of Public Health Media Project, University of Hong Kong. He is a former editor of the South China Morning Post (SCMP). Prior to joining the SCMP, he spent 13 years as a foreign correspondent based in Sri Lanka, the United Nations Office in Geneva, and London for one of India's leading newspapers, The Hindu. Thomas Abraham has worked for the United Nations in Geneva and been a regular commentator on South Asian issues for BBC World Service Television. He is the author of Twenty-first Century Plague: the story of SARS (Hong Kong University Press, 2004).

Professor John Oxford is professor of virology at St Bartholomew's and the Royal London Hospital, Queen Mary's School of Medicine and Dentistry, and also the scientific director of Retroscreen Virology Ltd. He has co-authored two standard texts: Influenza, the Viruses and the Disease with Sir Charles Stuart-Harris and GC Schild and most recently Human Virology, a Text for Students of Medicine, Dentistry and Microbiology published by Oxford University Press. Professor Oxford has also published 250 scientific papers. His research interest is the pathogenicity of influenza, in particular the 1918 Spanish Influenza strain. This research has been featured on Science TV programmes recently in the UK, USA, Germany and Holland.

David Frediani is executive director of MMC International, a unit of Marsh & McLennan Companies, Inc. (MMC). Mr. Frediani has been with the firm for more than 25 years. During this time he has held numerous positions in management, client service, industry practices and business development. He started his career in the San Francisco and New York offices and has spent over 20 years working outside the United States in Mexico, Malaysia, Italy, and the United Kingdom. From 2000 to 2003, he was a member of Marsh's European Board and Executive Committee, with responsibilities for Business Development, Industry Practices, Marketing, Communications, and International Client Service.

MMC is a global professional services firm with annual revenues exceeding $12 billion. It is the parent company of Marsh, the world's leading risk and insurance services firm; Guy Carpenter, the world's leading risk and reinsurance specialist; Kroll, the world's leading risk consulting company; Mercer, a major global provider of human resource and specialty consulting services; and Putnam Investments, one of the largest investment management companies in the United States.

20 February 2006

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