Volume 17, Number 2—February 2011
Books and Media
Avian Influenza: Science, Policy and Politics
Earthscan Publications Ltd., London, UK, 2010
IBSN: 978-1-84971-095-4 (hardcover)
IBSN: 978-1-84971-096-1 (paperback)
Pages: 261; Price: US $39.95
Pandemic (H1N1) 2009 reiterated the lesson that emerging diseases will continue to challenge us. This pandemic once again brought emerging infectious diseases to the world’s attention. Pandemics have occurred for centuries and will continue to occur. The question remains as to what we can learn from the past as we address future pandemics and infectious disease crises. Globalization is inexorable, and global spread of disease occurs faster than ever. Shifting wealth and geopolitical power and balance must affect our response as the world’s population becomes increasingly urbanized. As populations change, there will be higher expectations for health, higher anxiety in populations as their health is threatened, and a growing distrust in governmental response.
Severe acute respiratory syndrome and avian influenza (H5N1) confirmed that globalization has altered the developing world’s relationship with the industrialized world. Indonesia, the epicenter of the avian influenza (H5N1) epidemic, illustrates the geopolitical debates about equity, public goods, and global responsibilities, as demonstrated in the controversy surrounding virus sharing.
Avian Influenza: Science, Policy and Politics offers insight from the avian influenza (H5N1) response into the wider dilemmas regarding animal health, production and trade, public health, emergency response, and long-term development. Disease threats have transnational implications operating in a complex multilateral system. A one-size-fits-all response is not the answer. Although we think globally, our actions are local: livelihoods affected are local, ecology impacted is local, and disease dynamics are local. Surveillance and disease response systems must be congruent with local social, political, and cultural realities.
The authors provide an in-depth analysis of the political and economic structure of Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Thailand and illustrate the many actors and networks involved in policy and response to avian influenza (H5N1) and to intersections of science and politics. These examples uncover key insights into how policy was formulated, and it is this often disguised arena, in which some of the most important indicators of future actions and options are found, that can open up the experience to a wider, more nuanced debate. The authors note, “taking seriously the politics of policy, and not just focusing on the technical or economic dimensions, is vital for a more complete understanding of what works and what doesn’t as well as ensuring that the trade-offs between different disease control pathways are made clear.”
This book provides a well-documented approach to laying out issues involved in features of an effective, equitable, accountable, and resilient response infrastructure at international, national, and local levels for influenza and other emerging infectious diseases. The ultimate challenge will be to interpret and implement such recommendations locally, regionally, and globally. The chapters are well written and complete with multiple examples of science, policy, politics, actors, and networks involved in such efforts. This book would interest public health practitioners, those involved in policy and emergency response, and anyone interested in intricacies of policy development. It is essential reading for those involved in infectious disease detection and control and is highly recommended for epidemiologists; human and veterinary medicine practitioners; experts in international health and policy formulation; and persons involved in nongovernmental organizations, political science, business, and industry.
Suggested citation for this article: Gensheimer K. Avian influenza: science, policy and politics [book review]. Emerg Infect Dis [serial on the Internet]. 2011 Feb [date cited]. http://dx.doi.org/10.3201/eid1702.101702