Centre for Global Health Policy

Pandemic Flu Controversies: A Workshop to discuss lessons, policy implications and future challenges


The Centre for Global Health Policy and STEPS Centre held a workshop on 10-11 January 2013 to discuss lessons, policy implications and future challenges of pandemic flu.


Context and issues

Since the first human deaths from H5N1 were recorded in Hong Kong in 1997, avian influenza has spread across the world, concentrating in South East Asia. Billions of dollars have been spent on control measures, contingency plans and policy measures. In 2009 another influenza virus, H1N1 (popularly named ‘swine’ flu), was recorded in Mexico, and spread in pandemic proportions over the coming months.

None of these events to date have resulted in major human mortality on the scale some have predicted. The virus was either virulent but did not spread, or spread but was mild. Yet the prospect of some future combination where pandemic spread and mass deaths occur is very real, as recent laboratory research on H5N1 confirms.

Scientific advances in our understanding of the genetics, epidemiology and ecology of flu viruses have been rapid and impressive. Yet flu pandemics have generated multiple controversies, around threat perception, modelling, spending and response measures – raising questions about whose knowledge counts, and who gains and who loses. How can a better understanding of the social, political, institutional and policy dimensions of pandemic control and preparedness planning help us deal with such controversies? What lessons can we learn from recent controversies, and for the future?

Research at the Centre for Global Health Policy and the STEPS Centre interrogates these questions through on-going work in a number of settings. Collaborations with natural scientists, policymakers and field practitioners bring new insights to bear on pressing policy issues at the centre of the global response to pandemic influenza. A ‘One Health’ approach is at the core of our work, with an emphasis on cross-disciplinary and inter-sectoral engagement, with our work in particular bringing perspectives from the social and political sciences, which are often missing from global policy discussions.


Video interviews

We interviewed participants at the workshop on what they thought recent controversies could tell us about how to respond to pandemic flu in the future.

View this playlist on You Tube.


Photo Gallery

For a selecion of photographs from the workshop.

Professor Stefan Elbe speaker 

 5 attendees

Professor Stefan Elbe presenting


Pandemic Influenza pages

To read about the research themes at the Centre for Global Health Policy and the STEPS Centre, which were the focus of the international workshop, please see our Research Themes page. Over the last decade, Centre for Global Health Policy and the STEPS Centre has produced a number of published resources about Pandmeic Influenza, including books, journals, blogs and media pieces. To see a list of these publication, please see our Resources page.


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