Chicken or the pig, what came first?-The growing menace from Swine flu and other health crisis

Fact or Fantasy?The evolving threat from any health crisis should be a major concern to all those charged with ensuring their company’s resilience. When Swine Flu first surfaced, the public interest was akin to the gold medal tally board during the Olympics, if my country isn’t represented in the top five, who really cares? Sadly, with planners and medical advocates focusing on an inconsistent and flawed measurement tools such as the WHO’s running tally, most will not recognize the threat until it is literally upon them and rife within their communities. Much like the stock exchange, if the S&P 500 is surging, it is no guarantee that you are inclusive of the rally, alternately if it is plunging you could very well be unaffected. Why should the WHO’s numbers be any different?

When it is widely acknowledged that most governments, certainly within developing countries, are not the most dynamic of organizations and the list of failings by numerous administrations remains long and varied; why have so many placed such absolute trust in their ability to manage this particular crisis? Are so few people aware of the already over extended healthcare system in even the most developed of countries? When people are already waiting lengthy periods for non-life threatening surgeries and general practitioners are dwindling in number do they really believe that thousands of people even mildly ill simultaneously will be serviced in a timely manner? Not to mention the issues over any drug or vaccination that is rushed to market exclusive of any standardized clinical trials. I agree that the current trial periods may be too long but look at the countries that are mandating or implementing widespread vaccination programs of the first round of vaccinations. Concerning? Volunteers?

Even the most progressive multinationals have turned a blind eye to the inequalities of everything outside their home country when addressing planning and prevention for a major health crisis like swine flu. Their “home ground” view seems to be the same assumptions and standards for addressing the issue abroad. Since when has India had the same labor laws as the US? Since when has Indonesia enjoyed the same level of broadband connectivity to enable for employees to telecommute? And who in their right mind would assume that employees in China will stay at home and monitor their own health to ensure they do not contaminate the rest of the office/factory? Contractors and consultants in the UK recently declared that they were unlikely to stay away from the office if sick as they are on an hourly/daily rate which would be reduced should they not turn up for work. So much for that assumption! How many people do you think fill in the health declaration forms accurately when entering a country with such screening? Even Hong Kong’s current attempts are nothing more than superficial and mere inconvenience rather than anything of substance or consistency.

Malaysia has acknowledged their citizens are oblivious to Swine Flu and its affects. India is in a growing state of fear over the sudden realization they could be affected too, and they are helpless to do very much at all. Many employees in companies within India simply walk off the job to care for family if they think or confirm an ailment. How much of the world’s back office is situated in India? What do you think the impact will be from thousands who don’t turn up for work or significant diminished service capacities within India? South Korea, Taiwan and China all have major problems. They thought it was a European and Americas problem. Their population is ill informed, suspicious of the government, dependent on them to do something, have very underdeveloped risk management strategies and little to no budgets for such countermeasures, not to mention the care of extended family responsibilities well beyond that of the European and American cultures. Forget what the conflicting medical opinion is, do you really believe this will not be a problem?

Swine Flu (I don’t refer to water as H20 either) is not a human health issue. It is not limited to public health and safety. Like never before, company resilience to this issue will be determined by their actions and implementation, not industry standards or piecemeal government efforts. More concerning is that while these companies will be well prepared, their vendors, suppliers, consumers, affiliates, distributors, advocates and just about everyone else will not enjoy the benefits of their planning and be at the mercy of dynamically shifting environmental influences. You don’t need an economist to confirm the impacts of the economic downturn, equally any similar announcements by the medical fraternity will come well after the obvious, and at present, inevitable impact. On the scale of victim to survivor, where do you fall?


About Tony Ridley
Travel health, safety, security and risk management expert.

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