WHO Perspective on International Health Regulations

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WHO Perspective on International Health Regulations

Conclusions


The IHR are a legal tool designed to contribute to the achievement of public health goals, in which success is seen and measured in improvements to public health rather than adherence to any particular article of the document. At the same time, given the large number of initiatives for and influences on public health outcomes, it will always be hard to tease out and identify the specific contributions of such an instrument to global health. This article indicates some of the direct effects that IHR implementation is having on public health practice. Where states and WHO are building on preexisting programs, the IHR have boosted continuing commitment and momentum. An example at the international level is the WHO program for management of acute public health events; an example at the country level is the program to strengthen capacity in public health laboratories. In addition to boosting existing programs, some new activities relating to IHR provisions have been successfully established, such as the NFP network and the Emergency Committee.

The lessons and experience of the past 5 years need to be drawn upon to provide improved direction for the future. The member state–driven negotiations provide a legacy of ownership and commitment from countries, which continues to be evident in the nature and number of interventions concerning IHR during meetings of WHO governing bodies. As we approach the 5-year target date of June 2012, the immediate challenge is for WHO and the states parties to live up to the intention of the IHR national core capacity requirements and to make the best use of the opportunity for countries to continue their efforts beyond that date as anticipated under the extension procedure provided by the IHR.

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