What is Preparedness?
Public health emergency preparedness aims to minimise the risks posed by communicable diseases and to mitigate their impact during a public health emergency, regardless of the scale of the event (local, regional, national, European). This requires capacities and capabilities for effective planning, coordination, early detection, assessment, investigation, response to, and communication in public health emergencies.
Preparedness for health threats in the field of communicable diseases builds, to a large extent, on the experience gained from pandemic influenza preparedness planning. Preparedness is now being more and more integrated in public health activities, and in a more generic approach, as planning processes and other tools necessary for emergency preparedness, mitigation and response are often similar regardless of the nature of the hazard.
Why is preparedness important?
Preparedness planning is essential in order to respond effectively to outbreaks and epidemics. Sharing and aligning activities at European and international level in the area of public health emergency preparedness adds value to the efforts of single countries to strengthen their capacities and ensure coordinated and effective support when faced with cross-border health threats.
Planning and preparing for public health emergencies
Preparedness should be seen as a continuous quality improvement process, including planning, the identification and prioritisation of risks, training, simulation exercises, evaluation of lessons learned, and implementation of the organisational change identified.
EU/EEA Member States and local authorities are responsible for the control measures in public health emergencies. The capacity of the national health sectors needs to be flexible and resilient to face all types of major communicable disease risks, from epidemics to biosecurity accidents, and from well-known risks to new or re-emerging threats. EU institutions and international partners add further value to support necessary capacity-building and support coordinated responses to public health threats.
Why is preparedness a multi-sectorial effort?
Communicable disease preparedness requires coordination across multiple sectors, as the provision of public health services and medical care is almost entirely dependent on the preparedness of critical infrastructure sectors, including law enforcement, transport and communications, water and electricity supply, etc.
The new EU legislation on serious cross-border threats to health (Decision No 1082/2013/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council on serious cross-border threats to health and repealing Decision No 2119/98/EC) and the full implementation by the Member States of requirements under the International Health Regulations (World Health Organization. International Health Regulations 2005, Third edition) are critical elements in achieving this goal.
How is preparedness structured?
Preparedness should be seen as a continuous quality improvement process, including planning, the identification and prioritisation of risks, training, simulation exercises, evaluation of lessons learned, and implementation of the organisational change identified. Inter-sectorial aspects and interoperability of preparedness plans are a priority, also when working with preparedness for specific diseases (e.g. pandemic influenza and other respiratory threats, such as MERS-CoV; vector borne diseases; food and waterborne diseases; etc.).