Anticipating the Future

To prepare for upcoming global health emergencies, we need to anticipate the future. A future-oriented stance can be currently found at three levels:

  1. Forecasts, based on trend extrapolation or mathematical modelling, of the future spread and impact of infectious disease outbreaks or other disasters.
  2. Creation of scenarios of plausible future adverse events for on-the-grounds disaster emergency planning (preparedness, coordinated response, recovery). These events cover predictable events whose frequency is known but whose future developments are unknown (volcanic eruptions, storms), as well as events that are unpredictable but might have a significant impact (e.g., outbreak of a new infectious disease; unprecedented flood or drought, war, unexpected technological disaster).
  3. Creation of scenarios of plausible future adverse events for policy-making purposes (infrastructure construction, resources allocation, long-term planning, international collaboration).

We propose to use related foresight/futures studies methods to anticipate:

  1. Potential events that might create new, or exacerbate existing, and avoid or mitigate injustices;
  2. How the introduction of new or emerging technologies might affect injustices in global health emergencies and how these can be avoided or mitigated, and justice promoted when designing or using these technologies. Examples include, electronic and mobile health (eHealth and mHealth) devices, interconnected sensors (smart cities) and powerful geographic information systems (e.g., mapping slums from space using remote sensing).




Further Reading
  • Alexander, DE; (2015) Disaster and Emergency Planning for Preparedness, Response, and Recovery. In: Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Natural Hazard Science. (pp. 1-20). Oxford University Press: Oxford
  • Bennett, DeeDee, Brenda D. Phillips, and Elizabeth Davis. “The future of accessibility in disaster conditions: How wireless technologies will transform the life cycle of emergency management.” Futures 87 (2017): 122-132.
  • Brey, Philip. (2017) “Ethics of emerging technology.” In The ethics of technology: Methods and approaches, edited by Sven Ove Hansson, pp. 175-191. London; New York, Rowman and Littlefiled.
  • Enders, Alexandra, and Zachary Brandt. “Using geographic information system technology to improve emergency management and disaster response for people with disabilities.” Journal of Disability Policy Studies 17, no. 4 (2007): 223-229.
  • Garrett, Martha J. Health futures: a handbook for health professionals. World Health Organization, 1999.
  • Glenn, Jerome. C. and Gordon, Theodor. (eds). (2009). Futures research methodology-Version 3-0. T. J. Editorial desconocida. Washington, DC.
  • Gordon, Theodore J. “1,000 futures: testing resiliency using plausible future headlines.” World Future Review 8, no. 2 (2016): 75-86.
  • Heinonen, Sirkka, Osmo Kuusi, and Hazel Salminen, eds. How Do We Explore Our Futures?: Methods of Futures Research. Finnish Society for Futures Study, 2017
  • Lakoff, Andrew. Unprepared: Global health in a time of emergency. Univ of California Press, 2017
  • Lanfranchi, Vitaveska. “Machine Learning and Social Media in Crisis Management: Agility vs Ethics.” In Proceedings of the 14th International Conference on Information Systems for Crisis Response and Management. IMT Mines Albi-Carmaux (École Mines-Télécom), 2017.
  • Masum, Hassan, Jody Ranck, and Peter A. Singer. “Five promising methods for health foresight.” Foresight 12, no. 1 (2010): 54-66.
  • Sliuzas, Richard V. (2018). Grappling with the city – disaster Nexus. Inaugural Lecture, November 22, 2018. University of Twente. URL =
  • WHO Simulation Exercise Manual. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2017. Licence: CC BY-NC- SA 3.0 IGO.



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