Preparedness, Public Health Policy and Law


The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina has presented manifold direct and indirect public health problems such as contaminated water, soil and food; mold problems; hazardous waste and debris hazards; vector infestation; and damage to health infrastructure, residential and commercial buildings, etc. This experience has uncovered the inadequacy of policies in areas such as land-use practices, wetland management, building code, food safety, sanitation and emergency preparedness. For this reason, it is imperative to develop better policies or improve the current ones to guarantee public health security now and in the future. Toward this end, it is particularly important to increasingly bring precautionary principles to bear on policy development and compliance. An appropriate test would be: (1) whether a particular policy is oriented toward a “worst case scenario” regardless of whether a potential situation may be disastrous or not, and (2) whether the policy is adaptive with flexibility in compliance procedures to better respond to situational dynamics. The fact that this type of test is almost absent in policy development and compliance left the affected communities seriously vulnerable. Post-Katrina policy development initiatives should be about precautionary principles and proactive measures.