More than at any previous time in history, global
public health security depends on international cooperation and the willingness
of all countries to act effectively in tackling new and emerging threats.
This is the clear message of this year's World Health Report, A Safer
There are several key recommendations to secure the highest level of global
public health security: full implementation of the revised International Health
(IHR 2005) by all countries; global cooperation in surveillance
and outbreak alert and response; open sharing of knowledge, technologies and
materials, including viruses and other laboratory samples, necessary to optimise
secure global public health; global responsibility for capacity building within
the public health infrastructure of all countries; cross-sector collaboration
within governments; and, increased global and national resources for training,
surveillance, laboratory capacity, response networks, and prevention
In our increasingly interconnected world, new diseases
are emerging at an unprecedented rate. Since 1967, at least 39 new pathogens
have been identified. Other centuries-old threats, such as bird flu
, continue to pose a threat to
health through a combination of mutation, rising resistance to antimicrobial
medicines and weak health systems.
"Given today's universal vulnerability to these threats, better security
calls for global solidarity," said Dr Margaret Chan, director-general of the
World Health Organization (WHO). "International public health security is both a
collective aspiration and a mutual responsibility. The new watchwords are
diplomacy, cooperation, transparency and preparedness."
Global response to H5N1
The need for global solidarity is especially clear in
the response to outbreaks of infectious diseases. WHO and its partners are
closely involved in the global response to H5N1 avian influenza
, which has caused huge outbreaks in
poultry and at least 308 human deaths since it was first isolated in humans in
This World Health Report traces the history of efforts to contain
infectious diseases. It describes the evolution of outbreak surveillance and
response activities of international partnerships of agencies and technical
The report also shows how and why diseases are increasingly threatening global
public health security. Several human factors behind public health insecurity are
outlined, including: inadequate investment in public health resulting from a false sense
of security in the absence of infectious disease outbreaks; unexpected
policy changes; conflict situations when forced migration obliges people
to live in overcrowded, unhygienic and impoverished conditions heightening
the risk of epidemics; microbial evolution and antibiotic resistance; animal husbandry
and food processing threats.
International Health Regulations
The revised International Health Regulations (2005) are based on the
premise that no country can fully protect its citizens in isolation or through
traditional border controls. The IHR 2005 is a set of rules that governs how
countries should assess and report to WHO public health emergencies of potential
international concern. The broad definitions of "public health risk", "disease"
and "event" ensure that risks caused by the accidental or intentional release of
pathogens or chemical or radionuclear materials are covered by the
Since the IHR 2005 entered into force, almost all of the 193 WHO Member
States have established their national IHR focal points, with 179 designations.
Since then, WHO has been receiving alerts of health events on a regular basis,
conducting joint risk assessments with the notifying State(s) and sharing
real-time information with other Member States.