Capacity building

The International Health Regulations (IHR) (2005) require States Parties to develop, strengthen and maintain national capacities necessary for the surveillance of, verification of and response to potential health threats, and to apply these at their designated points of entry as outlined in Annex 1. The IHR provide an action-oriented framework encompassing both so-called hard capacities (functional laboratories, national emergency plans and standard operating procedures) and soft capacities (multisectoral cooperation, risk communication). Effective implementation of the framework requires overall national coordination.

Evaluating and maintaining these capacities is a continuous process. Because a periodic snapshot of capacity is insufficient to assess a country's ability to use the IHR, preparedness must be tested on a routine basis. This requires States Parties to incorporate lessons learned during real events and targeted exercises into their future planning.

Competent, equipped, and well-trained human resources are therefore essential to maintaining national capacity and preparedness and to ensuring that the IHR are functional. Human resources must be capable of providing public health surveillance and response across all levels and related sectors.

To help countries build their human resource capacity, WHO provides regular support to national personnel in the attainment, management and strengthening of essential IHR capacities. Through expert exchanges, national tabletop exercises, multisectoral workshops and cooperative agreement collaborations, WHO works closely with partners and States Parties to provide targeted technical assistance in a variety of areas. This facilitates the use of the IHR on a day-to-day, operational basis.

WHO also engages the participation of senior-level officials in multisectoral and multicountry capacity-building activities. The active engagement of these officials increases overall understanding of the benefits of IHR compliance and deepens political commitment to IHR implementation.

In addition to regional capacity-building activities, WHO offers online courses, trainings and workshops designed to address the needs of National IHR Focal Points (NFPs) and public health professionals as well as professionals from public or private organizations related to the IHR. These training activities impart competencies, knowledge and skills that enable professionals to comply with IHR requirements within their field. Examples of specific training activities include:

  • Laboratory quality management system (LQMS) training toolkit;
  • Laboratory issues for epidemiologists training programme;
  • Infectious substances shipping training course;
  • Biorisk management advanced trainer programme (BRM ATP);
  • Ship sanitation inspection and issuance of ship sanitation certificate learning programme; and
  • health surveillance systems training.

WHO also fosters networks for sharing expertise and best practices to link national professionals with global and regional technical experts.