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APHA Scientific Session and Event Listing

Leadership, Environmental Scanning, and the Future of Public Health: The Case of Peak Oil

Gerald D. Bednarz, PhD, Consultant, 832 E. Hutchinson Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15218, 412-241-2763, danbpgh@verizon.net

Leadership, Environmental Scanning and the Future of Public Health Policy: The Case of Peak Oil

The Institute of Medicine's report on the future of public health implies that leadership scans public health's macro-environment as part of the strategic management process. However, there is no guidance in the Institute's report –or most public health policy-making books-- on how to search for new knowledge of the environment. As long as the macro-environment remains more-or-less stable and predictable, the costs of not surveying it are minor and even a way to conserve precious time and money. Unfortunately, collectives of people are typified by what anthropologist Mary Douglas calls “institutional thinking,” a process that operates with inherently boundary-setting, change-denying and fact interpreting principles that maintain the status quo. This explains why public health's leadership has in the main not recognized the threat posed by “Peak Oil,” the idiom used to describe the plateau and then decline of worldwide oil production. There are four logical outcomes of the peaking and then decline of oil for public health:  No Crisis: Technology and the market will supply a substitute(s) energy source.  Short-term Crisis: A one to two decade severe economic and social transition to new energy sources; a virtually unavoidable outcome.  Long-term Crisis: A long-term transition that stabilizes society at a significantly lower level standard of living.  Social Collapse: In this scenario society as we now know it no longer works.

A survey conducted by the author shows that a handful of SPH deans are aware of these problems, Peak Oil itself and the discipline's reaction to it.

Learning Objectives:

Keywords: Public Health Infrastructure, Leadership

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Not Answered

Managing Health and Leading Improvement: New Directions in Health Administration

The 134th Annual Meeting & Exposition (November 4-8, 2006) of APHA