Presented under the auspices of the Special Focus on Computational and Mathematical Epidemiology.
We propose to organize a Mathematical Epidemiology workshop, jointly sponsored by the Pacific Institute of Mathematical Sciences (PIMS) and Center for Discrete Mathematics and Theoretical Computer Science (DIMACS), at the Banff International Research Station (BIRS) during the summer of 2007. While a similarly entitled 2005 workshop at the BIRS brought together epidemiologists and mathematicians who use existing approaches to solve public health problems or develop new ones, a crucial ingredient was missing. We propose to mix influential policymakers with able mathematicians and epidemiologists, particularly ones interested in collaborating.
The recent progress mentioned above has made the potential for collaboration between modelers and policymakers even more apparent to the organizers. But unless modelers fully appreciate the political challenges of policymaking and policymakers appreciate why models must be as simple as possible, but no more so, opportunities to develop sound public policy in preparation for or response to future health crises ? be they mutation of an avian influenza virus, increasing transmissibility person-to-person, and resulting in the next pandemic, or whatever ? may never materialize.
We believe a workshop in a setting conducive to discussion of the benefits of collaboration would repay dividends during future public health crises. Accordingly, we propose to mix well-positioned members of both groups willing to work together, but possibly not fully appreciative of the benefits to themselves much less society, with ones who have not only weathered health crises, but learned what makes fruitful collaborations. We are confident that interactions between experienced and willing collaborators in this setting will lead to significant partnerships between modelers and policymakers.
We plan to organize sessions around modes of transmission, respiratory (e.g., avian influenza, severe acute respiratory syndrome, SARS), sexual (e.g., acquired immunodeficiency syndrome and cervical cancer due to the human immunodeficiency and papilloma viruses), vector-borne (e.g., dengue, equine encephalitis, malaria, West Nile), and so on, for each of which we will identify responsible policymakers, knowledgeable medical epidemiologists, and experienced modelers. Sessions will be followed by discussions in informal settings facilitated by rapporteurs whose responsibilities include identifying means of furthering collaborations in their respective fields and ensuring they come to fruition. Thus, this workshop's product will be a coherent plan of action versus the usual summary of discussions.