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Mass-gathering decision making and its implementation during the COVID-19 pandemic

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The Lancet
Publication Type
Article

Mass-gathering events are a public health challenge and have the potential to amplify the transmission of infectious diseases. During the COVID-19 pandemic, WHO and the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security (Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA)—a WHO Collaborating Centre for Global Health Security—developed a global database of mass gatherings, which we continue to maintain. The purpose of this database is to monitor the planning and execution of mass-gathering events and to document the uptake of WHO-recommended policies by organisers; for example, the use of a risk-based approach.

Authors
Amaia Artazcoz Glaria
Albis Francesco Gabrielli
Rebecca Grant
Nedret Emiroglu
et al.

Retrospective identification of key activities in Uganda’s preparedness measures related to the 2018–2020 EVD outbreak in eastern DRC utilizing a framework evaluation tool

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PLOS Global Public Health
Publication Type
Article

Uganda has engaged in numerous capacity building activities related to outbreak preparedness over the last two decades and initiated additional just-in-time preparedness activities after the declaration of the 2018–2020 Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). When Uganda faced importation events related to the DRC outbreak in June—August 2019, the country’s ability to prevent sustained in-country transmission was attributed to these long-term investments in preparedness. In order to help prepare countries for similar future scenarios, this analysis reviewed evidence from Uganda’s response to the June—August 2019 importation events to identify preparedness activities and capacities that may have enabled Uganda to identify and isolate infected individuals or otherwise prevent further transmission. Content from 143 grey literature documents gathered via targeted and systematic searches from June 6, 2019 to October 29, 2019 and six interviews of key informants were utilized to inform a framework evaluation tool developed for this study. A conceptual framework of Uganda’s preparedness activities was developed and evaluated against timelines of Uganda’s response activities to the June—August 2019 EVD importation events based on the applicability of a preparedness activity to a response activity and the contribution of the said response activity to the prevention or interruption of transmission. Preparedness activities related to coordination, health facility preparation, case referral and management, laboratory testing and specimen transport, logistics and resource mobilization, and safe and dignified burials yielded consistent success across both importation events while point of entry screening was successful in one importation event but not another according to the framework evaluation tool. Countries facing similar threats should consider investing in these preparedness areas. Future analyses should validate and expand on the use of the framework evaluation tool.

Authors
Steven Ssendagire
Rhoda K. Wanyenze
Alex Riolexus Ario
Doreen Tuhebwe
Susan Babirye
Rebecca Nuwematsiko
GHS Index 2021 cover

Global Health Security (GHS) Index 2021 | Advancing Collective Action and Accountability Amid Global Crisis

Publication Type
Report

The 2021 Global Health Security (GHS) Index finds that despite significant steps taken by countries to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, all countries remain dangerously unprepared to meet future epidemic and pandemic threats. Importantly, countries now have a more acute understanding of what this lack of preparedness means for their health and prosperity. This understanding presents an opportunity to convert high levels of political awareness about pandemics to long-term gains in preparedness by sustaining newly developed tools and building out additional capacities to better protect lives and livelihoods against the next pandemic.

Much is at stake. Countries continue to suffer harm from the COVID-19 pandemic as a result of insufficient health security capacity. This lack of capacity comes at a time when political and security risks have increased in nearly all countries, and enduring financial investment necessary to sustain capacities has yet to be demonstrated. Such weaknesses leave a world acutely vulnerable to future health emergencies, including those potentially more devastating than COVID-19.

These are sobering conclusions revealed by the 2021 GHS Index. With data captured during a period when countries wrestled with COVID-19,1 researchers used a revised framework and updated data collection to glean hard truths about pandemic preparedness while assessing and benchmarking health security capacities across 195 countries.2

 

Authors
Jessica Bell
Nellie Bristol
Gabrielle Essix
Christopher Isaac
Sophie M. Rose

Lessons Learned From a Large Cross-Border Field Simulation Exercise to Strengthen Emergency Preparedness in East Africa, 2019

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Health Security
Publication Type
Article

Field simulation exercises (FSXs) require substantial time, resources, and organizational experience to plan and implement and are less commonly undertaken than drills or tabletop exercises. Despite this, FSXs provide an opportunity to test the full scope of operational capacities, including coordination across sectors. From June 11 to 14, 2019, the East African Community Secretariat conducted a cross-border FSX at the Namanga One Stop Border Post between the Republic of Kenya and the United Republic of Tanzania. The World Health Organization Department of Health Security Preparedness was the technical lead responsible for developing and coordinating the exercise. The purpose of the FSX was to assess and further enhance multisectoral outbreak preparedness and response in the East Africa Region, using a One Health approach. Participants included staff from the transport, police and customs, public health, animal health, and food inspection sectors. This was the first FSX of this scale, magnitude, and complexity to be conducted in East Africa for the purpose of strengthening emergency preparedness capacities. The FSX provided an opportunity for individual learning and national capacity strengthening in emergency management and response coordination. In this article, we describe lessons learned and propose recommendations relevant to FSX design, management, and organization to inform future field exercises.

Authors
Hilary Njenge
Frederik Copper
Allan Bell
Denis Charles
et al.

Risk and the Republican National Convention: Application of the Novel COVID-19 Operational Risk Assessment

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Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness
Publication Type
Article

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization broadly categorize mass gathering events as high risk for amplification of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) spread in a community due to the nature of respiratory diseases and the transmission dynamics. However, various measures and modifications can be put in place to limit or reduce the risk of further spread of COVID-19 for the mass gathering. During this pandemic, the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security produced a risk assessment and mitigation tool for decision-makers to assess SARS-CoV-2 transmission risks that may arise as organizations and businesses hold mass gatherings or increase business operations: The JHU Operational Toolkit for Businesses Considering Reopening or Expanding Operations in COVID-19 (Toolkit). This article describes the deployment of a data-informed, risk-reduction strategy that protects local communities, preserves local health-care capacity, and supports democratic processes through the safe execution of the Republican National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. The successful use of the Toolkit and the lessons learned from this experience are applicable in a wide range of public health settings, including school reopening, expansion of public services, and even resumption of health-care delivery.

Authors
David Callaway
Jeff Runge
Lisa Rentz
Kevin Staley
Michael Stanford

The value proposition of the Global Health Security Index

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BMJ Global Health
Publication Type
Article

Infectious disease outbreaks pose major threats to human health and security. Countries with robust capacities for preventing, detecting and responding to outbreaks can avert many of the social, political, economic and health system costs of such crises. The Global Health Security Index (GHS Index)—the first comprehensive assessment and benchmarking of health security and related capabilities across 195 countries—recently found that no country is sufficiently prepared for epidemics or pandemics. The GHS Index can help health security stakeholders identify areas of weakness, as well as opportunities to collaborate across sectors, collectively strengthen health systems and achieve shared public health goals. Some scholars have recently offered constructive critiques of the GHS Index’s approach to scoring and ranking countries; its weighting of select indicators; its emphasis on transparency; its focus on biosecurity and biosafety capacities; and divergence between select country scores and corresponding COVID-19-associated caseloads, morbidity, and mortality. Here, we (1) describe the practical value of the GHS Index; (2) present potential use cases to help policymakers and practitioners maximise the utility of the tool; (3) discuss the importance of scoring and ranking; (4) describe the robust methodology underpinning country scores and ranks; (5) highlight the GHS Index’s emphasis on transparency and (6) articulate caveats for users wishing to use GHS Index data in health security research, policymaking and practice.

Authors
Lane Warmbrod
Elizabeth E. Cameron
Jessica Bell
Priya Bapat
Michael Paterra
Catherine Machalaba
Indira Nath
Lawrence O. Gostin
Wilmot James
Dylan George
Simo Nikkari
Ernesto Gozzer
Oyewale Tomori
Issa Makumbi

Updated WHO COVID-19 Mass Gatherings Risk Assessment Tools

Publication Type
Report

The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, a World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre on Global Health Security, has worked with WHO on the development of various tools and technical guidance for mass gatherings in the context of COVID-19. The primary aim of this partnership is to encourage stakeholders to use a risk-informed decision-making process when planning for mass gatherings and, specifically, to identify and mitigate the risk of spreading COVID-19 during the mass gathering. This process includes conducting risk assessments to determine the overall risk of disease spread connected to a mass gathering.

In view of the current COVID-19 pandemic, WHO, with the support of the Center and other members of the Novel Coronavirus-19 Mass Gatherings Expert Group, has developed a series of risk assessment tools and other resources for generic as well as sports- and religious-specific mass gatherings. These risk assessment tools include a risk evaluation, mitigation, and communication strategy to aid host countries and organizers of mass gatherings in assessing the specific risk of COVID-19 to their event. A training course has also been created that provides a brief overview of mass gathering planning during COVID-19 and walks users through the use of the risk assessment tools.

Resources for mass gathering planning in the context of COVID-19 can be found at the following link after selecting “COVID-19: Mass Gatherings” from the drop down menu.

Mass Gathering Risk Assessment Tools

  1. WHO Mass Gathering COVID-19 Risk Assessment Tool – Generic Events (revised July 10, 2020). Link / Excel Tool
  2. WHO Mass Gathering COVID-19 Risk Assessment Tool – Sports Events (revised July 10, 2020). Link / Excel Tool
  3. WHO Mass Gathering COVID-19 Risk Assessment Tool – Religious Events (revised July 10, 2020). Link / Excel Tool
Authors
on behalf of the WHO Novel Coronavirus-19 Mass Gatherings Expert Group

Preventing Ebola in Uganda: Case Study from the Makerere University School of Public Health and the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security

Publication Type
Article

The Kivu Ebola epidemic began on August 1, 2018, when four cases were confirmed in North Kivu Province in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). 1 To date, the epidemic has led to over 3,400 confirmed and suspected cases in the DRC and over 2,200 deaths. Because there is frequent movement from North Kivu across the border into Uganda, including a regular influx of refugees, the Ugandan government and its partners put themselves on high alert and mobilized resources to prevent the importation of cases, detect imported disease quickly, contain the spread of imported disease, and treat sick people appropriately.

Exemplars in Global Health uses standardized methods to pinpoint countries that outperformed peers in key health outcomes, beyond what would be expected from their economic growth. Guided by global and in-country experts, we also consider geographic diversity, data availability, and research feasibility to select Exemplar candidates. We then conduct further research and analysis to validate our initial assessment. Learn more.

Authors
Steven Ssendagire
Rhoda K. Wanyenze
Alex Riolexus Ario
Doreen Tuhebwe
Susan Babirye
Rebecca Nuwematsiko

Risk-Informed Decision Making: More Critical Today Than Ever Before

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Health Security
Publication Type
Commentary

Decision making under uncertainty can be paralyzing for any leader trying to choose the best way forward. In the COVID-19 pandemic, uncertainty is deep; while we learn more every day, information gaps—including those related to viral transmission dynamics, the human immune response, the effectiveness of public health interventions like social distancing, and the future trajectory of COVID-19 spread—continue to be barriers to leaders making evidence-based decisions about protective actions.

An analysis of International Health Regulations Emergency Committees and Public Health Emergency of International Concern Designations

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BMJ Global Health
Publication Type
Article

In the aftermath of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak, the WHO fundamentally revised the International Health Regulations (IHR), which entered into force in 2007. The 196 States Parties to the IHR recognised that certain public health events pose a significant risk to the global community and should be designated as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). Under Article I of the IHR, a PHEIC is defined by three criteria: an extraordinary event which ‘constitute[s] a public health risk to other States through international spread of disease and…potentially require[s] a coordinated international response.’ The IHR (Annex 2) provides a ‘decision instrument’ that guides States Parties as to which health events have the potential to become PHEICs, thus requiring reporting to WHO. [Annex 2 of the IHR provides a decision instrument for States Parties to assess which events detected by national surveillance systems would require notification to the WHO. This includes a single case of smallpox, poliomyelitis due to wild-type poliovirus, human influenza caused by a new subtype and SARS. Other health events that have the potential to cause international public health concerns or serious impact trigger an algorithm to determine if notification to WHO is required. Criteria for this algorithm include determining if the event is serious, unusual or unexpected, has a significant risk of international spread, or poses a significant risk of international travel or trade restrictions. If two of the criteria are true, then notification to WHO is required under the IHR]. The IHR also empowers the WHO Director-General (DG) to convene an Emergency Committee (EC) which consists of international experts brought together on an ad-hoc basis. The EC provides their advice on whether the current situation should be considered a PHEIC, and what Temporary Recommendations should be given to Member States to bolster the response and control the outbreak. Ultimately, however, the WHO DG has sole authority to declare a PHEIC and make Temporary Recommendations for Member States to follow.1

Covid-19 Planning Guide and Self-Assessment for Higher Education

COVID-19 Planning Guide and Self-Assessment for Higher Education

Publication Type
Report

Globally, institutions of higher education are facing unprecedented challenges related to Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19). The resulting academic, financial, ethical, and operational questions are complex and high-stakes. The COVID-19 pandemic may represent an inflection point, fundamentally altering how we work, socialize, and learn. The authors of this toolkit collectively believe that our institutions need near-term tools to ensure continuity through this pandemic as well as methods for rethinking the basic assumptions and values of their institutions.

Authors
David Long
David Graves
Jack Burton
Christina Kim
Judith Eaton
Operational Toolkit for Businesses Considering Reopening or Expanding Operations in COVID-19

Operational Toolkit for Businesses Considering Reopening or Expanding Operations in COVID-19

Publication Type
Report

This operational toolkit has been developed to help business owners who are considering reopening or expanding their operations to determine their establishments’ risk of transmission of COVID-19 and how to reduce it.

As displayed in the figure below, the Operational Toolkit consists of 3 parts: an instruction manual; a business risk worksheet; and an assessment calculator.

Operational Toolkit for Businesses

As some governments begin to lift strict public health measures and move into the next phase of their outbreaks of COVID-19, local, state, and federal authorities are planning for the gradual reopening of businesses and resumption of economic activity. While planning for a staged approach to business resumption must be coordinated by local, state, and federal authorities, individual organizations should start planning for how they will restart or expand their operations so that modification and mitigation measures will already be in place when work can resume and the new ”business as usual” can commence.

This operational toolkit allows business leaders to work through a 4-stage process to obtain an overall risk score for their business and to identify considerations for reducing both operational and individual level risks posed by COVID-19. The overall score represents the inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 that may occur in a business and possible changes to daily operations and policies that can lower the inherent risk of exposure. This toolkit is intended to provide businesses with a starting point in their planning to reopen or expand their operations by identifying their risk levels for contributing to the spread of COVID-19 and providing them with a list of mitigation measures to implement that will increase the safety of their employees, clients, customers, and community. 

The 3 parts of the Operational Toolkit include:

  1. An Instruction Manual (PDF)
    Instructions that explain how to complete the 4-stage Business Risk Worksheet and Assessment Calculator.
     
  2. A Business Risk Worksheet (PDF)
    A 4-stage step-by-step worksheet for you to report and understand your business’s overall risk of spreading COVID-19 and how your business operations can be made safer.
     
  3. An Assessment Calculator (XLSX)
    An Excel spreadsheet you will fill out to receive a calculated risk score and a modification score.
Cover: Developing a National Strategy for Serology (Antibody Testing) in the United States

Developing a National Strategy for Serology (Antibody Testing) in the United States

Publication Type
Report

Serology (antibody) tests for the SARS-CoV-2 virus have the potential to inform good public health decision making during the pandemic. This report describes potential uses of the tests, areas of uncertainty where additional research is needed, and examples from other countries now beginning to make use of these tests. The priority for the United States now is to make validated, accurate tests available to: (1) public health authorities, to conduct surveillance and to estimate the numbers of people previously infected. Should antibody tests be determined to correlate with immunity to the disease, they should then be made available to: (2) essential workers, with priority for healthcare workers and those who interact with vulnerable populations (eg, nursing home residents); and (3) individuals who may use them to assess their personal risk of becoming infected with SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19 disease). These tests will be in high demand, and manufacturing should be scaled appropriately, but the first steps will be to ensure accuracy, validity, and comparability of available tests.

Authors
Nancy Connell
Rachel West
Lane Warmbrod
Public Health Principles for a Phased Reopening During COVID-19: Guidance for Governors report cover

Public Health Principles for a Phased Reopening During COVID-19: Guidance for Governors

Publication Type
Report

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to progress, most jurisdictions have implemented physical distancing measures to reduce further transmission, which have contributed to reductions in numbers of new cases. As chains of transmission begin to decline, along with new COVID-19 cases, there will need to be decisions at the state level about how to transition out of strict physical distancing measures and into a phased reopening

Report cover: Preparedness for a High-Impact Respiratory Pathogen Pandemic

Preparedness for a High-Impact Respiratory Pathogen Pandemic

Publication Type
Report

This report examines the current state of preparedness for pandemics caused by “high-impact respiratory pathogens”—that is, pathogens with the potential for widespread transmission and high observed mortality. Were a high-impact respiratory pathogen to emerge, either naturally or as the result of accidental or deliberate release, it would likely have significant public health, economic, social, and political consequences. Novel high-impact respiratory pathogens have a combination of qualities that contribute to their potential to initiate a pandemic. The combined possibilities of short incubation periods and asymptomatic spread can result in very small windows for interrupting transmission, making such an outbreak difficult to contain. The potential for high-impact respiratory pathogens to affect many countries at once will likely require international approaches different from those that have typically occurred in geographically limited events, such as the ongoing Ebola crisis in Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).