In 2007, the World Health Organization (WHO) launched the revised version of the International Health Regulations (IHR 2005) to strengthen global health security. The legally binding regulations are approved by all WHO member states aiming to help the international community prevent and respond to acute public health risks that have the potential to cross borders and threaten people worldwide.
Through implementing the IHR (2005), the member countries have agreed to fulfil certain public health capacities to ensure proper systems to detect, assess and report on public health events, such as functioning surveillance and response systems.
As the IHR (2005) requires countries to report information to WHO on certain disease outbreaks and public health events including diseases that can potentially be of international concern and new influenza viruses, all countries are required to establish an IHR national focal point. In Norway, the national focal point is located at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and a national multisectoral IHR-forum is established responsible to follow-up and ensure the Norwegian implementation of the regulations.
Public Health Event of International Concern
Public health events of international concern (PHEIC) are defined under the IHR (2005) as public health risks that constitute a risk to other states and that potentially requires an international response. The WHO Director-General is responsible for determining whether an event will be defined as one of international concern based on advice from the IHR Emergency Committee. The global public health community urged the need to revise the health regulations due to the lack of an efficient response to the SARS outbreak in 2002.
Four public health events of international concern have been declared since the IHR (2005) entered into force:
- April 2009: the Swine Flu (influenza H1N1) pandemic
- May 2014: the Polio Eradication
- August 2014: the Ebola Virus Disease Outbreak in West-Africa
- February 2016: the Zika Virus Outbreak in the Americas
All countries responsible for implementing the IHR (2005)
The IHR (2005) underline the responsibility of all countries to achieve the full implementation of the capacities to prevent, detect and respond to public health crisis through collaboration. Article 44 stipulates that “collaboration under this Article may be implemented through multiple channels, including bilaterally, through regional networks and the WHO regional offices and through intergovernmental organizations and international bodies”, showing that support can be achieved through various mechanisms. The Norwegian Institute of Public Health collaborates with the health authorities in Malawi, Ghana, Moldova and Palestine through the Global Health Preparedness Programme aiming to strengthen the (2005) core capacities in these four countries.