The purpose of the “community conversations” was to obtain input from a diverse cross-section of the public about the acceptability of possible strategies to facilitate access to antiviral medications during a flu pandemic. The community conversations were designed to
• inform participants about antiviral medications, the challenges of getting them to the public during a flu pandemic, and current planning efforts to address these challenges;
• gather input about the acceptability and feasibility of possible alternative strategies for the quick, safe, and fair prescribing and dispensing of antivirals in a pandemic, and about strategies for informing the public about pandemic influenza and treatment; and
• encourage broad participation that includes members of typically vulnerable and hard-to-reach populations.
The goal of the community conversations was not to promote or reach consensus or agreement. Similarly, the themes generated by participants’ discussion during these three workshops cannot be generalized to other populations or communities. Rather, their purpose was to elicit a variety of opinions, concerns, and the participants’ own ideas for the CDC to consider in its subsequent policy deliberations. The use of this type of public engagement is ultimately advisory. It can help policy makers understand an array of priorities and values that might be important to individuals and to the public at large, and on what issues people differ and why. It also can alert policy makers to areas of potential misunderstanding or distrust, where greater awareness will have to be fostered to promote public acceptance and cooperation when plans are implemented in an actual public health crisis.
The IOM was charged with organizing community conversations in three geographically and demographically diverse locations. These sessions were to convene a total of 200 individuals representing a diverse cross-section of the local populations, including people who might need additional assistance in a crisis (e.g., elders, people with disabilities, oth-