Laura Kahn

Laura H. Kahn

Articles by Laura H. Kahn

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.

6 April 2009

Licensing life science researchers

Laura H. Kahn

In a previous column, I discussed how the recent U.S. buildup of high-containment biodefense laboratories might inadvertently increase the risk of another bioterrorist attack by increasing the number of researchers who have expertise and access to dangerous pathogens. One response to this risk has been to oversee research facilities and monitor the acquisition of microbes.

18 February 2009

The threat of emerging ocean diseases

Laura H. Kahn

Much attention has been paid to newly emergent diseases that have afflicted humans in recent decades--HIV/AIDS, SARS, avian influenza, etc. Conversely, deadly diseases that have emerged in the world's oceans during the same time period have been largely ignored. While these diseases haven't caused epidemics in humans, they have proved troublesome to marine animal populations and to susceptible humans who have ventured into contaminated waters.

15 January 2009

Modeling disease spread

Laura H. Kahn

Many things went wrong during Britain's 2001 foot-and-mouth disease crisis. Initial efforts at identifying infected animals, slaughtering them, and burying their carcasses within 24 hours--the tried-and-true method for containing the disease--were sluggish at best. And the country's Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Food (MAFF), still reeling from criticism about how it handled the country's decade-long mad cow disease epidemic, was unprepared for the severity of the foot-and-mouth outbreak.