Congressional Briefing - September 14, 2009

The H1N1 Pandemic: Lessons Learned from the Cities Readiness Initiative

pedestrians on city street


Christopher Nelson and Edward Chan


Monday, September 14, 2009


1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.


Room 203 SVC Capitol Visitor Center
Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.

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About the Program

The World Health Organization declared H1N1 a pandemic earlier this summer and the experimental H1N1 vaccine may be distributed too late to prevent many of the anticipated illnesses and deaths. Although the federal government has invested billions of dollars in improving the public health system's readiness for large-scale events, there has been little systematic evidence to assess whether these investments are actually making the nation safer.

RAND's recently published evaluation of the Cities Readiness Initiative (CRI) provides one of the first rigorous assessments of whether federal investments can improve readiness in the nation's communities. CRI helps the nation's largest metropolitan areas develop the ability to rapidly deliver life-saving medications and other medical supplies to their populations.

The study found that

  • CRI has improved communities' readiness to dispense medication and other supplies on a large scale and under rapid timelines
  • programs structured around specific scenarios and with clear goals, performance measures, and technical assistance, are more likely to be successful.

The study also has broader implications for pandemic influenza and other federal public health preparedness programs.

This briefing focuses on work conducted by the RAND Center for Domestic and International Health Security.

About the Speakers

Christopher Nelson, Ph.D., is a senior political scientist at RAND. Nelson is currently leading a set of projects to develop performance evaluation systems and operational standards for responses to large-scale public health emergencies (e.g., pandemic influenza and bioterrorism). Other recent projects in the area of public health preparedness have focused on applications of quality improvement methods to rare-event phenomena, the role of intergovernmental structure in preparedness, and strategies for designing program guidance. He holds an M.A. and Ph.D. in political science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a B.A. summa cum laude from the University of Minnesota.

Edward Chan, Ph.D., is an operations researcher, with a background in mathematical modeling, simulation, and optimization. His research at RAND has focused on emergency preparedness, defense, and homeland security issues. Recent projects have included measuring and improving the readiness to conduct mass dispensing operations, quantifying resources and logistics needed by emergency responders to manage the consequences of terrorist attack scenarios, and options for improving airport security. Studies on defense issues include analyses of future technology requirements, collateral damage incidents and causes, and worldwide basing arrangements for support resources. Prior to coming to RAND, he was a postdoctoral research associate and lecturer at Cornell University. Chan holds a B.S., M.Eng., and Ph.D. from Cornell University.

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Further Inquiries

For further information about this event, contact the Office of Congressional Relations at or call (703) 413-1100, ext. 5395.