Recent years have witnessed an upsurge in global health emergencies—from SARS to pandemic influenza to Ebola to Zika. Each of these occurrences has sparked calls for improved health preparedness. This book addresses the question, how did we become “unprepared?" Emerging disease has only recently come to be understood as a problem of preparedness. Andrew Lakoff follows the history of health preparedness from its beginnings in 1960s Cold War civil defense to the early twenty-first century, when international health authorities carved out a global space for governing potential outbreaks. Alert systems and trigger devices now link health authorities, government officials, and vaccine manufacturers, all of whom manage the possibility of a global pandemic. Funds have been devoted to cutting-edge research on pathogenic organisms, and a system of post hoc diagnosis analyzes sites of failed preparedness to find new targets for improvement. Yet, despite all these developments, the project of global health security continues to be unsettled by the prospect of surprise.
Andrew Lakoff is Associate Professor of Sociology and Communication at the University of Southern California. He is the author of Pharmaceutical Reason: Knowledge and Value in Global Psychiatry and coeditor of Biosecurity Interventions: Global Health and Security in Question.