WHO convenes expert consultation to strengthen health security and emergency preparedness

WHO

International experts from member states and partners gathered in a WHO consultation in Vienna, Austria, 22 - 23 March 2012, to present and discuss the results of a joint project supported by the European Commissions Directorate-General for Health and Consumers (DG SANCO) and to agree on future priorities for international collaboration to strengthen risk management and emergency preparedness of national health systems.

The overall objective of the project "Support Health Security, Preparedness Planning and Crisis Management in EU, EU accession and neighbouring (ENP) countries" aimed to strengthen health security in the pan-European context.

Health security requires well prepared health system

Twenty-eight delegates and experts from ten member states of the WHO European Region,  representatives from WHO headquarters in Geneva and from the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office in Cairo, from partners like the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control ECDC, the Executive Agency for Health and Consumers, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, IFRC, from the Emergency Management and Disaster Medicine Academy, EMDM, from the Health Protection Agency, HPA, England and from the World Association for Disaster and Emergency Medicine, WADEM, discussed the public health challenges in emergencies and disaster situations, the potential health consequences of mass gathering events and the challenges for health systems confronted with displaced populations and migration.

Representatives from Croatia, England, Israel, Poland, the Republic of Moldova, Romania and Turkey presented their experience with the technical tools developed by WHO and how those tools have contributed to strengthening emergency preparedness and crisis management capacities: 

  • The WHO toolkit for assessing health-system capacity for crisis management
  • WHO Europe hospital emergency response checklist
  • WHO “Public Health and Emergency Management” PHEM training courses
  • Guidelines for reports on health crises and critical health events.

In a separate session the public health challenges in the context of migration triggered by the North Africa Crisis in 2011 were presented, with examples from Malta, Greece and Italy.

A round table on challenges in preparing for high visibility events, like the forthcoming Olympic and Para-Olympic Games 2012 in London and the 2012 UEFA European Football Championship in Poland and Ukraine highlighted the complexity of mass gathering preparedness in view of the required multi-sectoral and multi-disciplinary approach.

The delegates agreed on a set of recommendations, which include the need for harmonised approaches to strengthen risk management and emergency preparedness of health systems through a generic all-hazard approach to preparedness planning. Further work is required to support the practical application and the roll out of the technical tools developed, to support capacity development and to collect evidence to define standards for minimum requirements and best practice for risk management capacities and emergency preparedness of health systems.