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Primary Care Physicians and Pandemic Influenza: An Appraisal of the 1918 Experience and an Assessment of Contemporary Planning

Lauer, Jacob BS; Kastner, Justin PhD; Nutsch, Abbey PhD

Journal of Public Health Management and Practice: July-August 2008 - Volume 14 - Issue 4 - p 379–386
doi: 10.1097/01.PHH.0000324567.10652.db

This multidisciplinary research project examined the role of primary care physicians in past pandemic flu responses and current planning efforts. Project researchers gathered and synthesized historical research, state and federal planning documents, and interview-based data. The 1918 influenza pandemic presented one model from which to understand the role played by physicians during a large-scale disease outbreak, and the challenges they faced. Contemporary planning documents were assessed for their inclusion of primary care physicians. Literature reviews and interviews comprised the principal sources of information. Findings included the following: (1) primary care physicians do not have the time to engage fully in pandemic planning activities; (2) physicians are willing to serve during a pandemic; however, government support and the availability of resources will affect their level of involvement; (3) communities should develop plans for coordinating local physicians who will allow alternative care sites to be functionally staffed; and (4) full coordination of physicians is not possible under the US healthcare system.

This article illustrates the role of primary care physicians in pandemic flu responses and current planning efforts.

Jacob Lauer, BS, is a medical student, University of Kansas School of Medicine, Kansas City.

Justin Kastner, PhD, is assistant professor, Food Safety and Security, Department of Diagnostic Medicine/Pathobiology, Kansas State University, Manhattan.

Abbey Nutsch, PhD, is assistant professor, Food Safety and Security, Department of Animal Sciences and Industry, Kansas State University, Manhattan.

Corresponding Author: Justin Kastner, PhD, Department of Diagnostic Medicine/Pathobiology, 310 Coles Hall, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS 66506 (

The authors thank James Kallail, PhD, University of Kansas Scholars in Primary Care Program; Dane Ditto, MD, Candlewood Medical Group, Manhattan, Kansas; and Brad Johnson, PhD, Kansas State University Honors Program.

© 2008 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.