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Quickly Noted: Who’s In Charge?

February 24, 2010

I was able to get a few recently published articles from the Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (JHSEM) (and secretly uploaded them to my Scribd account –sshhh! UPDATE: wow, that was quick, already taken down due to copyright issues. Sorry folks, if you want to read it you’ve got to give Berkeley Press your contact information here: The first I’d like to talk about is a book review. Generally, I find book reviews can be elucidating or maddening, narrowly defined or broadly ranging (I’m looking at you, Frank Rich). The review in the latest issue of the JHSEM of the book, Who’s in Charge: leadership during epidemics, bioterror attacks, and other public health crises,presented something new to me—a book review I disagreed did not agree with.

The reviewer recommends that anyone looking to understand how modern day public health response functions should read this book (he even uses an exclamation point to press the idea). Yet, not a half-page prior, he notes that everything after HSPD-8 is not even contained in the book! He even provides a list of everything that’s missing:

  1. The National Preparedness Initiative, outlined in HSPD-8
  2. The Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act of 2006 and its reorganization of HHS and the creation of both the offices of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) and Office of Preparedness and Emergency Operations (and its essential coordination planning efforts capabilities)
  3. The transfer of the National Disaster Medical System from FEMA to HHS
  4. The creation and successful deployment operations of Emergency Support Function – 8 (ESF-8) HHS Incident Response Coordination Teams (IRCT)
  5. The follow-on direction provided by the 2007 Public Health and Medical Preparedness, HSPD-21

Don’t you think those things are pretty important and might change the answer to the question, “Who’s in charge?”

Now, that said, I certainly am not in a position to bash the author. I haven’t read this book, and the review rightfully mentions that Laura Kahn paints a wonderful history of public health preparedness leadership. If you’re interested in that, I wholeheartedly recommend that you buy this book. If however, you’ve got ten books on your nightstand and a half dozen 100+ page reports to read (like me) besides your normal work – I’d wait for the second edition.

UPDATE: After thinking about it, I think I was being unfair. In all truth, I haven’t read Ms. Kahn’s book, so it’s unfair of me to make a recommendation one way or another. Consider this post my passing along the review published in JHSEM. After I receive the book and read it, I’ll try to post my review.

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