Alert, response, and capacity building under the International Health Regulations (IHR)

Public health concerns

The control or containment of known existing risks to public health is one of the most powerful ways to improve international health security since these risks constitute the vast majority of day-to-day events with the potential for a public health emergency. Preparedness and readiness for these threats are dependant on strong generic preparedness measures at national and international levels but also requires specific preparedness measures relating to surveillance, risk reduction, and response and containment. The development of specific risk reduction and containment processes is dependant on understanding the nature of the threat and implementing specific measures to reduce risk, which often requires cross sectoral communication and collaboration. Equally the development of interventions and the appropriate stockpiling of critical supplies require specific disease knowledge and a variety of partnerships within the public and private sector.

The existing international disease control programmes, addressing infectious diseases as well as food-safety and environmental safety, are essential contributors to WHO global alert and response systems. At national level, threat specific initiatives and programmes can often be a driving force in meeting core capacities requirements (e.g. poliomyelitis). It is however crucial that integrated approaches be taken as much as possible and that all threat specific preparedness and readiness be seen in the context of the overall planning and management of public health emergencies.

Related links