Press Release

The Cost of Health Crisis: Measuring the Economic and Human Toll of Pandemics

CHICAGO, IL January 6, 2015— The Ebola virus outbreak has sparked numerous concerns, not least among them is the issue of what public health threats mean in terms of specific costs to hospitals, business, government, individuals and society.

With this recent global health crisis as the framework, a diverse panel of health, economic and humanities experts will lead a public dialogue on Wednesday, January 14, 6-8 p.m., examining the ethics and economics of public health risk.

How much does it cost to keep citizens safe and who pays for it all? Is health safety a human, business or civic responsibility of the government to assure we are protected at all costs? How has the fear of health risks been viewed in literature and film? What do we learn from pandemics?

In November 2014, President Obama requested $6.18 billion in emergency funding to improve the response to Ebola. The administration also established the Global Health Security Agenda, a system designed to quickly extinguish outbreaks and prevent epidemic. Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières noted that the international community was slow to respond and the United Nations issued a statement saying that the international community needs better warning and rapid response procedures. As of  December 20, 2014, the  World Health Organization put the death toll from Ebola in the three most affected countries in West Africa at 7,373 from among 19,031 known cases.

“It is critical at this time that we examine how we view extreme health risks,” said Michele Weldon, Director of Programs, Illinois Humanities Council. “By looking through an economic lens and considering humanistic viewpoints, we can come to a deeper understanding of the issues and how best as a society we can cope.”

Recently, the University of Chicago Medical Center, one of 35 hospitals designated as an Ebola Treatment Center in the U.S., monitored a child who had arrived at O’Hare airport from a West African country with a high fever. The test came back negative. The CDC, as of December 19, 2014, puts the total of Ebola cases in the United States at four with one death.

The conversation will take place at the Harold Washington Library, Cindy Pritzker Auditorium on Wednesday, January 14, 2015, 6-8p.m. and is free and open to the public.

About the Panelists
Robert A Weinstein, M.D.:
Former Chair of Medicine, Cook County Health and Hospitals System, The C Anderson Hedberg MD Professor of Internal Medicine, Rush Medical College System. Dr. Weinstein is a past president of the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) and past chair of CDC’s Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee (HICPAC).

Catherine Belling, Ph.D: Associate Professor in Medical Education-Medical Humanities and Bioethics, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Executive Editor, Literature and Medicine.

Bruce Lambert, Ph.D: Professor in the department of communication studies and the director of the Center for Communication and Health at Northwestern University, where he is also a professor in the Department of Medical Social Sciences.

Rena Conti, Ph.D: Assistant professor, hematology, oncology, University of Chicago Department of Pediatrics. She is a health economist pursuing research in two main areas: the value of new medical technology for individuals and society, and the organization and financing of medical care for vulnerable populations.

Odette Yousef: WBEZ reporter. As a former reporter for WABE-FM, the local NPR affiliate in Atlanta, she covered everything from local politics and business, to criminal courts and health systems. Previously, Odette was a producer for NPR’s Talk of the Nation in Washington, DC.

About the Illinois Humanities Council

The Illinois Humanities Council is an independent, nonprofit state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, dedicated to fostering a culture in which the humanities are a vital part of the lives of individuals and communities. The IHC creates programs and funds organizations that promote greater understanding of,
appreciation for, and involvement in the humanities by all Illinoisans, regardless of their economic resources, cultural background, or geographic location. The IHC is supported by state, federal, and private funds.