World Youth Day 2016

World Youth Day 2016 (WYD 2016), a triennial celebration of the Catholic youth, took place in Poland on 23–31 July and ended on Sunday with a closing mass by Pope Francis. Throughout the gathering participants representing 187 countries ranged from 500 000 to more than two million.

WHO/Europe, together with WHO/Headquarters, continues to monitor mass gathering events in two ways:

  • by conducting pre-event assessments on public health risks; and
  • by providing public health recommendations on emergency preparedness and infectious disease-outbreak control.

In order to enhance event-based surveillance WHO has developed an electronic platform, called the Hazard Detection and Risk Assessment System (HDRAS), that detects and monitors public health events by combining and monitoring a wide range of information sources (e.g. news media, social media, blogs and specialized news aggregators).

For WYD 2016 WHO/Europe supported WHO/Headquarters by monitoring HDRAS during the 5-day celebration. Experts in emergency preparedness, health security and infectious diseases control reviewed the news sources in real-time to immediately identify public health threats. WHO/Europe was also in regular contact with the Polish Ministry of Health and the Chief Sanitary Inspectorate that were also monitoring potential public health threats.

The main health and medical issues reported throughout the event were limited to fainting, sunburn and minor injuries. A fatal case of meningitis was reported after the event. All the members of the deceased young woman's group were given the prophylactic antibiotic as a precaution.  

Through HDRAS WHO/Europe was also able to monitor Poland’s mass gathering preparedness. The emergency plan included:

  • heightened alert for designated hospitals and primary health care centers and doctors;
  • heightened security measures, i.e. increased number of policemen, security personnel, firefighters, paramedics, and border guards by at least 40 000 units; and
  • screening of vehicles and restricted access to the core event sites.

At least 19 000 volunteers participated. During the event one person was detained for carrying traces of explosive and at least 200 people were denied entry to the country.

Despite fears the information technology infrastructure did not collapse under the pressure of the increased demand and on the contrary proved quite reliable. The next WYD will take place in Panama in 2019.

WHO/Europe will continue to support Member States in collaboration with WHO/Headquarters, other Regional Offices and Country Offices:

  • by assessing risks and capacities of host countries;
  • by monitoring potential public health threats during and after sportive and cultural mass gathering events; and
  • by providing tailored trainings to national public health personnel.