A Kiwi scientist is among top experts helping the World Health Organisation (WHO) respond to the Covid-19 global pandemic.
University of Auckland anthropology lecturer Heather Battles has been given the job of identifying cultural and social problems that may arise as governments try to control the spread of the virus.
She researches infectious diseases and epidemics, and is co-authoring a briefing paper for the WHO.
"It's good to be useful. If there's going to be a pandemic it's nice to feel you have something to contribute," Dr Battles said.
"I'm not a nurse, not a doctor, not an essential worker but I spent many years of my PhD and Masters education doing this, learning about the different ways people respond to epidemics and what works well and doesn't."
Until recently, her work was based solely on past epidemics, including extensive research into the history of the polio pandemic in New Zealand and how people react to a new virus.
Needless to say, she has had huge interest in organisations wanting to tap her expertise, including the WHO.
"Right now it's about stopping the spread and protecting people but slightly longer term, especially before there's a clear vaccination strategy, there's going to be a lot of tricky ethical questions," Dr Battles said.
She is looking at these dilemmas in detail.
"What do governments need to be thinking about when they start thinking about what their strategies need to be? So I'm giving that broader social science perspective on what's often very technical," she said.
"What do we need to think about so that we're not creating new problems or exacerbating existing inequalities or suffering?"
Dr Battles said she expected more questions to arise around how prepared New Zealand was for a pandemic.
"I think there's a lot of people now asking what could we have done differently. We knew this was coming and that pandemics are going to be a constant threat. I think people who research this know this, and maybe we needed to be louder."
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