Transcript of WHO podcast - 15 June 2007
New International Health Regulations; health impact of environment; importance of safe blood for mothers
Christine McNab: You’re listening to the WHO podcast for the week of 15 June 2007. I'm Christine McNab.
In this episode:
- a global agreement to strengthen international public health security comes into force;
- new country data show how the environment affects health; and
- WHO begins a new programme to get safe blood to women giving birth.
On June 15th, the revised International Health Regulations (IHR) came into force. The regulations are a set of rules and procedures that detail how countries and WHO should communicate about and respond to potential threats to global health. Over the last few years, certain outbreaks, including SARS and avian influenza, have highlighted both the speed at which viruses can spread internationally and the health, social and economic toll they take. The revised International Health Regulations were agreed upon by the World Health Assembly. They include clear steps on how and when countries should report potential threats to global health whether a disease outbreak, a radiation, chemical or contaminated food incident. Dr Michael Ryan is the WHO Director of Epidemic and Pandemic Alert and Response.
Dr Michael Ryan: I think everyone, through the SARS experience and other diseases, recognized that the world is such that now these events cannot be obscured, that these events come to light and must be managed in an open, transparent, professional and collective manner. And I think all the IHR does is bring transparent rules and procedures to that process that is already happening. It allows everyone to understand the rules of that game, how we are going to play that and what are the rights, responsibilities and benefits of participating in that system.
Christine McNab: The regulations aim to help stop a potential problem right at its source. This is considered the most effective way to reduce the risk of international spread and to minimize the impact on travel, trade and economies.
Dr Michael Ryan: This is a critical investment in security, and as such, we have to change the paradigm in which we think. This isn't about development, this isn't even about humanitarianism. This is about assuring the collective security of not only the health, but the economies of the world for the future and minimizing the impacts that these events have on health, societies, economies and international relations.
Christine McNab: WHO will help countries to strengthen their systems to fully implement the International Health Regulations and will continue to strengthen its own systems, which include round-the-clock strategic operation centres around the world.
This week, WHO also announced progress on creating an H5N1 vaccine stockpile. The stockpile is aimed at helping developing countries to contain a pandemic influenza threat should the H5N1 avian influenza virus change into a form which is easily transmissible between people. Several companies have announced their intentions to contribute to this stockpile.
Christine McNab: New data presented by WHO this week show that 13 million deaths worldwide could be prevented every year by making environments healthier. People in low-income countries suffer the most from environmental health factors. But the country-by-country analysis shows that even developed countries could prevent up to one-sixth of their disease burden, with improved environmental actions. Dr Maria Neira is the WHO director responsible for health and the environment.
Dr Maria Neira: The diseases we are talking about are in the case of developing countries, those related, for instance, with lack of clean water, or lack of sanitation. Therefore the diseases will be diarrhoeal, or the use of solid fuels indoor and resulting in lower respiratory infections. In the case of developed countries, we are talking about the diseases that are associated with the physical environment in which we move, or we cannot move, or the environment in which we work everyday, air pollution or issues related to stress at work which will result in neurological disorders.
Christine McNab: WHO says the new data can help countries to decide which areas to tackle as priorities.
Christine McNab: About 125 000 women die every year because of severe bleeding while giving birth. Transfusions are risky when there is no safe blood supply. For this weeks' World Blood Donor Day, WHO launched a new initiative to improve the availability and use of safe blood to save the lives of women during and after childbirth. The biggest needs are in developing countries. As part of the initiative, WHO will strengthen the capacity of blood banks and district hospitals for more voluntary blood donation and safe blood collection and will train clinicians, nurses and other health workers across the world.
Thanks for listening to the WHO podcast. For the latest public health news and more information about WHO’s work, visit our website at www.who.int.