Laura Kahn

Laura H. Kahn

Articles by Laura H. Kahn

23 November 2010

Making sense of the Haitian cholera disaster

Laura H. Kahn

On January 12, 2010, Haiti, one of the world's poorest nations, suffered a 7.0 earthquake that killed hundreds of thousands of people, flattened the government (literally), and destroyed the relief headquarters of the United Nations. Consequently, over a million people were left homeless and live in squalor without access to adequate hygiene, clean water, or food. And earlier this November, Hurricane Tomas only added to the devastation with widespread flooding. This setting was ripe for cholera, a deadly diarrheal disease, to rear its ugly head. And sadly, that's what happened.

11 November 2009

When the H1N1 flu hits home

Laura H. Kahn

On Saturday, October 24, President Barack Obama declared the H1N1 flu a national emergency. To date, more than 20,000 people have been hospitalized and more than 1,000 have died.

27 October 2009

When science is lacking, good leadership is critical

Laura H. Kahn

Since the middle of the twentieth century, more than 330 novel infectious diseases have emerged in human populations. The majority of these new diseases spread from animals to humans--take, for example, HIV/AIDS, SARS, and bovine spongiform encephalopathy (commonly known as "mad cow disease," or BSE). Some political leaders chose to respond to these dangerous diseases by ignoring or downplaying the problem. Others consulted scientific and medical experts in order to make informed decisions to combat the threats.

13 October 2009

The need for political leadership during a crisis

Laura H. Kahn

The concept of "meta leaders"--individuals who make decisions beyond their official lines of authority in order to facilitate collaborations across jurisdictions and agencies--was proposed in an effort to overcome the silo thinking that characterizes how traditional government leaders carry out their roles. Since then, meetings and summits have promoted the concept of "meta leadership" among business, government, and nonprofit sectors.

28 September 2009

Leadership in a public health crisis

Laura H. Kahn

Max Weber, the noted German sociologist of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century, wrote that an inherent conflict exists between political and bureaucratic leaders. Political leaders strive to get reelected and implement their ideologically based policies while bureaucratic leaders aim to perpetuate and expand their bureaucracies.

3 September 2009

Reduce the spread of flu with good hand hygiene

Laura H. Kahn

A recent report by the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology estimates that a resurgence of the H1N1 influenza virus during the 2009-2010 flu season could lead to 30,000-90,000 deaths, mostly in children and young adults. What's worse, the flu season could begin as early as September, just as school is starting.

3 August 2009

Hiroshima, (re)visited

Laura H. Kahn

After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, my father, who had struggled through the Great Depression to become a surgeon, volunteered with the U.S. Army. He was stationed in the United States for some time, but eventually sought an overseas assignment. In March 1944 he shipped out of San Francisco to join the 35th General Hospital in New Guinea and then, one year later, transferred to the 1st Portable Surgical Hospital at Leyte Island in the Philippines where he operated on wounded soldiers in an active combat zone.

9 June 2009

The problems with the Department of Homeland Security

Laura H. Kahn

In response to 9/11, Congress created the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), a massive cabinet-level agency that consolidated 22 departments and agencies and almost 200,000 federal employees. Its goal was to improve domestic security coordination and communication.

11 May 2009

Stirring up "swine flu" hysteria

Laura H. Kahn

All disease crises begin with some level of chaos and confusion, particularly when a novel microbe is involved. The current influenza A (H1N1) crisis--referred to by the media as "swine flu"--isn't an exception. The notable difference is the level of hysteria it inspired.

29 April 2009

Who's in charge during the swine flu crisis?

Laura H. Kahn

As the swine flu crisis worsens, effective disease control will require political and public health leadership at the federal, state, and local levels. Like the deadly influenza virus of 1918 that took more lives than World War I, this latest virus is an H1N1 strain and has the potential to develop into a major pandemic. Already, the virus has infected more than 150 people in Mexico and has spread to New York City and other parts of the United States.