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The “wicked problems” of governing UK health security disaster prevention: The case of pandemic influenza

John Connolly (School of Social Sciences, University of the West of Scotland, Paisley, Scotland, United Kingdom.)

Disaster Prevention and Management

ISSN: 0965-3562

Article publication date: 1 June 2015




The purpose of this paper is to examine the governance and policy-making challenges in the context of “wicked problems” based on the case of pandemic influenza.


The case study research is based on an analysis of official documentation and interviews with policy elites at multiple levels of UK governance.


Results of this study show that policy actors regard risk communication, the dynamics of international public policy and UK territorial governance as the main governance challenges in the management of influenza at a macro-level. The paper also serves to identify that although contingencies management for epidemiological issues require technical and scientific considerations to feature in governance arrangements, equally there are key “wicked problems” in the context public policy that pervade the health security sector.

Practical implications

The study indicates the need to build in resources at a national level to plan for policy coordination challenges in areas that might at first be seen as devoid of political machinations (such as technical areas of public policy that might be underpinned by epidemiological processes). The identification of the major governance challenges that emerge from the pandemic influenza case study is a springboard for a research agenda in relation to the analysis of the parallels and paradoxes of governance challenges for health security across EU member states.


This paper provides a novel interrogation of the pandemic influenza case study in the context of UK governance and public policy by providing a strategic policy lens from perspective of elites.



The author would like to thank the Carnegie Trust (Scotland) for funding this research. Thanks also to the two anonymous reviewers for their helpful advice and suggestions on an earlier version of this paper.


Connolly, J. (2015), "The “wicked problems” of governing UK health security disaster prevention: The case of pandemic influenza", Disaster Prevention and Management, Vol. 24 No. 3, pp. 369-382.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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