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Assessment tools and bridges completed, paving the way to reduction of global health risks

June 17, 2014

Thanks to contributions from the European Commission and nine other donors, the Avian and Human Influenza Facility (AHIF) financed a transformational project that is key to development and health security.  The World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) worked closely together, with support from AHIF, to develop and refine their tools for assessing human and veterinary public health systems and to develop an accompanying joint WHO-OIE guide. This project, the last financed by AHIF, was successfully completed on schedule this year.  The international community now has critically-needed assessment tools that work across the human and animal health sectors.  

Only robust public health systems in all developing countries can reduce the global risks of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), pandemic influenza, Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), and other conditions.  The achievements of this project are very relevant and timely because these risks are high and rising, and the impacts could be catastrophic.  AHIF thus not only effectively  responded to H5N1 avian flu and H1N1 pandemic flu, but it deserves credit for financing the basis to strengthen public health systems in the medium term, which will reduce risks in the future.  In our interconnected world, where a dangerous novel pathogen can travel from a remote village in a poor country to cities on all continents in 36 hours, robust public health systems in all countries are a priority for the global community.

The project took advantage of the good experience with OIE’s Performance of Veterinary Services (PVS) assessment program and the lessons that WHO has learned in overseeing implementation of the International Health Regulations (IHR).  Close collaboration between the two sectors is necessary because many infectious diseases of humans originate in animals, and their spread does not stop at borders.  Indeed, 75% of infectious diseases in humans are now of animal origin (zoonotic).  Every year, poor people in developing countries suffer the impact of 2.3 billion zoonotic infections.  Moreover, weak public health systems in some countries increase the risks of globalized contagion and antimicrobial resistance; when a country  does not check the spread of pathogens in time, all countries are at risk.  The tools produced by this project will help countries determine where the gaps are in the performance of their systems relative to international standards, and assess the costs of investments and other measures that are required for compliance. All countries should be able to detect diseases early, assess and report them correctly, and respond to them effectively.  Thanks to this project, every developing country will be able to set out its investment program to close the worst - most dangerous – gaps. The World Bank and other partners can support this investment program, confident that the assessments are comprehensive, thorough, and technically robust.

On behalf of the World Bank, Juergen Voegele (Director, Agriculture) and Timothy Grant Evans (Director, Health) welcomed the completion of the joint OIE-WHO project.  They emphasized use of One Health approaches, promptly sharing information and jointly analyzing risks and response effectiveness.  The tools for assessments of the veterinary and human public health systems and the bridges between them are clearly needed to guide improvement in capacities of public health systems to  prevent and control diseases, including those that can become pandemics.  The tools will enable smooth implementation of One Health approaches, consistent standards across countries, and badly-needed investments in essential public health capacity. 

WHO and OIE presented the tools at a joint meeting in Geneva on April 17, 2014.  In this short video, Juergen Voegele and Tim Evans highlight the importance of this project and its results for public health in the 21st century:  https://streaming2.worldbank.org:8080/vvflash/hdn1