Sunday, March 20, 2011

My understanding about the International Health Regulation.

17th March 2011

Sub: Meeting with the International health regulatory experts

The International Health Regulation (IHR) experts from World Health Organization (WHO) along with the senior program officer, Mr. Tshering Dendup, Ministry of Health, Bhutan were here in Paro airport to sensitize; the representatives of the different agencies, on the importance of public health services at the point of entry. The team said, that they were on an “assessment Mission” on Public health facilities in Paro airport.
With only handful of  participants from airport, our meeting rather started on a very casual and informal note. The program officer, asked the participants about some of the threats that our Country is facing today. There were three of us who responded immediately. I responded by saying ‘Tobacco’ while two other responded by saying ‘terrorist’ and ‘pandemic’ respectively.

As the meeting proceeded further, the experts educated us on many aspects of public health, history of IHR regulation and International conventions related to WHO. Bhutan is signatory to the convention called International Health Regulatory Authority and hence we have obligations to be fulfilled (in near future). This will enable our system to comply with international regulations in times to come.

In my understanding, our country can comply with the IHR as follows:
1.       Educate all the service providers about the international conventions like WHO constitution, International Health regulation and Universal aviation/land crossing  safety etc 

2.       Designate competent National Focal point that will communicate about the potential health threat in their jurisdiction to a competent authority. 

3.       Designate point of Entry, with all the core capacities (both for all times and times of emergency) both for air and land.

4.       We can rethink of integrating this health regulation to the airport emergency plan

Over 4 million passengers flying 24 hours a day around the world, the potential of spreading a communicable disease (overnight) is a  foreseeable thing.  This has in turn called for Universal Aviation Safety Audit, which consist of concepts like Aerodrome safety, facilitation and Co-operative Arrangement for the Prevention of Spread of Communicable diseases through Air travel (CAPSCA)

The team also enlightened me and my friends on the need of integrating WHO and ICAO. Air traffic management under the regulation of ICAO can act as a crucial information provider  to the flight Captain/pilot about the passenger who boards the plane with the potential health risk. In this way the the potential high risk passenger can be identified and located way before the flight actually lands at the designated point of entry.

Universal  Aviation Safety Audit, will conduct aviation safety audit and publishes its findings to the public. The public will be informed about those point of entry, that have low safety compliance record and hence not worthwhile for the travel and vice-versa.

The main aim of IHR is to contain the risk at the origin through public health services and public health surveillance. Therefore health is the security is everyone. Without a secure health system, we are as strong as a weak link in the chain of security system.


Note: I am afraid, that this article is rather haphazardly written. The points are not in sequential order and I would like to remind all my readers that this is what I have learned in just 1 hour about the IHR from the experts.  

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