Global meeting in London looks ahead in public health
Health Ministers from around the world met today to discuss the ongoing threat to public health from the current H1N1 pandemic, maintaining effective responses globally, and looking ahead to how the pandemic could develop.
The 10th ministerial meeting of the Global Health Security Initiative (GHSI), hosted in London by the Department of Health, was attended by representatives from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, UK, the US, the European Commission, and the World Health Organization.
The Initiative, formed in 2001, aims to protect health on a global scale and enhance our ability to deal with international chemical, biological and radio-nuclear threats to health, as well as pandemic influenza.
Public Health Minister, Gillian Merron, chaired the meeting to conclude the group’s annual work and set the agenda for the next twelve months. Among the next priorities was urgent consideration of how the H1N1 virus will progress. This may include the virus becoming the dominant seasonal strain next year, having implications for vaccines and other preventive measures.
Gillian Merron said:
“Diseases don’t respect borders so we need an international response to them. The global effort to tackle the pandemic has been impressive and would not have been possible without such cooperation.
“Never before have we been in such a fortunate position to get vaccine out so quickly, tackling the virus at its peak. Our solidarity has also meant that crucial evidence and information could be shared between us.
“Over the last ten years, this initiative has gone from strength to strength. The coming year will be challenging but, because Governments can work together on a global scale, public health will benefit from collective experience and knowledge.”
Further discussions around pandemic ‘flu focused on:
· Vaccines: noting the particular risk to certain groups, vaccination remains a top priority, offering the best defence against the virus. Vaccine manufacturers are encouraged to maintain open communications regarding delivery schedules to assist Governments in their planning. Members also committed to continue to share vaccine adverse reaction information.
· International assistance: the Initiative committed to maintaining close links with the WHO and international partners to support other countries needing assistance in responding to the pandemic.
· Research: sharing evidence and research about the pandemic will improve the global response.
Key achievements of the last year include:
· Communications: an unprecedented level of collaboration between the member states has strengthened the response to pandemic flu – including policy, technical, and risk communications issues.
· Diagnostics: improved links have been forged between laboratories worldwide and in partnership with the WHO. This has assisted with, for example, vaccine-related research.
· Early alert system: a successful pilot scheme for an alerting system to monitor and track chemical, biological and radio-nuclear events.
In addition to future work on pandemic flu, technical working groups formed by the Initiative will take forward key priorities, including:
· Global infrastructure: establishing a sustainable way of managing medical countermeasures to ensure effective and cost effective responses to global issues.
· Mass gatherings: preparing for and responding to gatherings of high international consequence, such as the Olympics, and building effective partnerships required with other key sectors.
· Decontamination: identifying common challenges and approaches for the decontamination of people following critical incidents.
Notes to editors
2. More information on the GHSI can be found at: http://www.ghsi.ca/english/index.asp
The GHSI was first established in 2001 as a response to September 11th terrorist events and the subsequent release of anthrax letters in the US. Global health security covers a wide range of issues such as generic preparedness and response to encounter public health crises, pandemic influenza as well as threats caused by chemical, radio-nuclear and bioterrorism agents (by accidental or deliberate release).
Each year in preparation for the ministerial level debates, the GHSI collaboration brings together experts and senior officials from the G7 countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, UK, US) and Mexico and officials from the European Commission. The permanent secretariat of the GHSI is in Canada which steers the annual work programme of the GHSI.
The Global Health Security Action Groups (GHSAG) develop joint work in five key areas;
· 1. The laboratory working group aims to improve diagnostic cooperation between laboratories where high threat pathogens like anthrax can be diagnosed.
· 2. The risk management and communication working group focuses on risk and threat assessment (establishment of a core list of threats), media communication and rapid alert mechanisms (an early alerting and reporting project by GHSI partners is being piloted). The group has carried out capacity building on specific threats (e.g. ricin and anthrax).
· 3. Border issues have a particular focus in the pandemic influenza working group. The differences and the scientific reasoning for border policy decisions (e.g. on entry screening at the airports and help for nationals outside of their own territory) is discussed in the ministerial.
· 4. The chemical working group works on capacity building on toxic industrial chemicals and a list of chemicals of concern. In addition, the group is surveying medical countermeasures and areas for collaboration in drug research.
· 5. The radio-nuclear working group supports the development of an International Radiological and Nuclear Laboratory Response Network. In addition, it is looking at possible collaboration on medical countermeasures research, development and stockpiling.
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