Alert, response, and capacity building under the International Health Regulations (IHR)

Health laboratory strengthening

Background

Under the revised IHR, countries are required to develop the capacity to detect, investigate and report to the international community through WHO, potential public health emergencies of international concern, such as disease outbreaks. A credible and accessible laboratory service capable of producing reliable results in a timely manner is a cornerstone of any country's capacity to investigate such events. Although in recent years there have been significant advances in laboratory capacity, in many countries reliable confirmation of suspected infectious diseases is hindered by a lack of standardized methods, sufficient funds, suitably trained staff and laboratory supplies.

Vision

WHO Member States have the capacity to detect, confirm and report public health events in a safe, timely and reliable manner by laboratory testing.

Goals

The following six goals guide WHO activities in this area:

  • Goal 1: Strengthen national laboratory system policies and strategic plans
  • Goal 2: Support implementation of laboratory quality systems
  • Goal 3: Enhance networking between laboratories with public health responsibility and with surveillance and response systems
  • Goal 4: Increase domestic testing capacity in range and volume
  • Goal 5: Support laboratory workforce development
  • Goal 6: contribute to WHO leadership and coordination role in global laboratory strengthening forums

Activities

In order to achieve these goals, WHO conducts a series of activities at global, regional and country level, such as: development of technical resources (training materials, tools, guidelines); organization of trainings, workshops, meetings or conferences; support to public health laboratory networks through knowledge sharing, training, or the provision of external quality assessment schemes; technical assistance to public health laboratories through the procurement of essential equipment and supplies, or transfer of knowledge and technologies through laboratory partnerships and twinning projects.

Resources and information

For further information contact: Dr Sébastien Cognat, email: cognats@who.int

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