Pandemic outbreaks of human influenza are a reality of nature and have occurred periodically throughout history. Since we know the next outbreak is an eventuality, developed nations have ample opportunity to prepare. The H5N1 virus currently infecting birds in several parts of the world should prompt healthcare leaders to develop effective, integrated plans for responding to a pandemic. The iterative cycle of preparedness outlines five key steps: (1) capabilities-based planning, (2) equipping, (3) training and educating, (4) exercising and evaluating and (5) identifying and incorporating lessons learned. This paper focuses on the strategic aspects of effective pandemic preparedness and the cyclical architecture that links them. It also describes concrete steps healthcare leaders can take not only to prepare their organizations for a pandemic, but also to participate in broader planning activities to ensure that preparedness is a community investment.
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