Online Program

Not Based on Science? Analyzing the Ebola Quarantine Decisions from an Evidence-Based Policy Perspective

Tuesday, November 3, 2015 : 4:30 p.m. - 4:50 p.m.

Heather Allen, PhD MPA, Center for Food Security and Public Health, Iowa State University, Ames, IA
During the ongoing Ebola virus outbreak, some states elected to implement quarantines for people traveling to the US from countries affected.  Many—including the President—argued that these policies were not based on “science”.  The argument that policymakers do not utilize evidence has been made. However, there is an argument that much of the analysis on evidence-based policy (EBP) in public health is based on 1) flawed assumptions regarding the communities involved and 2) misunderstandings about the usage of evidence. While the legality of these quarantines was debated, there was little exploration of these policies from an analytical perspective. Evaluating assumptions identified by Oliver 2014, this research provides a description of the decision to implement the quarantine policies in New York and New Jersey.  These assumptions are: that there is a policy-evidence gap; that policy is not based on evidence; and that more usage of evidence would lead to better policy for populations. Textual analysis is conducted on media reports on the decision to quarantine, evidence regarding the effectiveness of quarantines, and the reports  on the response to quarantines. This research finds that—to some extent—the traditional arguments (i.e. policymakers don’t use science) and new arguments (i.e. mistaken assumptions about EBP) are valid. Information gathered here provides an argument that, in order for EBP to be implemented, we must better understand the interaction between types of knowledge and individuals and groups involved (particularly animal and human health practitioners for zoonoses). This research finds that One Health policies involving risk—particularly to humans—are highly influenced by the timing, source, and presentation of evidence.

Learning Areas:

Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines
Public health or related public policy
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Evaluate the evidence for and against state-specific quarantine measures. Explain why evidence-based policy is more complicated than just "knowing the facts".

Keyword(s): Decision-Making, Veterinary Public Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have a PhD in Public Policy and routinely perform research, analysis, and evaluation of public policies relating to One Health.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.