Mobilising “vulnerability” in the public health response to pandemic influenza

Niamh Stephenson, Mark Davis, Paul Flowers, Casimir MacGregor, Emily Waller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Analysis of public health's growing interest in “vulnerability” has largely focused on health policy, with little interrogation of how vulnerability is being actively appropriated, countered, ignored or reworked by the publics whose health such policy is designed to protect. Once the assemblage of public health is understood as comprised of different forms of expertise and actors, including publics, addressing this gap matters. We examine the use of vulnerability in the specific context of pandemic influenza preparedness. Pandemic preparedness raises some familiar dilemmas for public health governance: how to engage with publics without fuelling social divisions and disruption; and whether to invoke publics as passive recipients of public health advice or to recognise publics as collective agents responding to the threat of pandemic influenza. Thus, we ask how the mobilisation of vulnerability connects with these dilemmas.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10-17
Number of pages8
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2014


  • public health
  • pandemic
  • influenza
  • health policy

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