Disasters and epidemics are immense and shocking disturbances that require the judgments and efforts of large numbers of people, not simply those who serve in an official capacity. This article reviews the Working Group on Community Engagement in Health Emergency Planning's recommendations to government decision makers on why and how to catalyze the civic infrastructure for an extreme health event. Community engagement--defined here as structured dialogue, joint problem solving, and collaborative action among formal authorities, citizens at-large, and local opinion leaders around a pressing public matter--can augment officials' abilities to govern in a crisis, improve application of communally held resources in a disaster or epidemic, and mitigate community wide losses. The case of limited medical options in an influenza pandemic serves to demonstrate the civic infrastructure's preparedness, response, and recovery capabilities and to illustrate how community engagement can improve pandemic contingency planning.
Schoch-Spana, Monica, and Crystal Franco, Jennifer B. Nuzzo, Christiana Usenza on behalf of the Working Group on Community Engagement in Health Emergency Planning. 2007. "Community Engagement: Leadership Tool for Catastrophic Health Events." Biosecurity and Bioterrorism (May): 8-25. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17437348