Risk, insurance, preparedness and the disappearance of the population: The case of pandemic influenza

Wraith, Caroline; Stephenson, Niamh
October 2009
Health Sociology Review;Oct2009, Vol. 18 Issue 3, p220
Academic Journal
The Australian response to the threat of pandemic influenza is part of a broader shift in public health and governance. This shift in approach to risk – from insurance to preparedness – has been triggered by the emergence of incalculable, global, catastrophic risks. Familiar, insurance-driven approaches to governing risk work by intervening at the level of the population. However, incalculable risks of the scale posed by pandemic influenza exceed the scope of insurance. Now preparedness driven approaches are coming to the fore in public health. Preparedness focuses on protecting infrastructures and on guaranteeing the continuity of the political and economic order, and it entails discontinuous, temporal and localised expert responses. Importantly, this approach suggests that there is no need to look at the socio-historical contexts of disease; the population is of little direct concern. This, we suggest, raises doubts about how public health strategies which unfold in accordance with preparedness will recognise and tackle inequities. Finally, we consider the imperative to ‘secure the nation’ that preparedness brings to public health.


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