Filling the gaps in preparedness plans

Preparedness is a key strategic element of an effective response to health threats. However, despite evident improvements in recent years, there is still large evidence of ineffective management of epidemic and pandemic events at any level, as the Ebola outbreak in West Africa recently showed. A great issue that come together with a deep lack of knowledge on how to make preparedness plan effective. This was the main topic discussed during the meeting organized in Stockholm this February by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). Aims of the event were to identify key knowledge gaps in infectious disease preparedness in Europe, and to identify strategies to promote interactions between research and practitioner communities to begin to address these gaps.

A wide range of top-level experts from different disciplines participated to the meeting: public health officials, epidemiologist, sociologist, anthropologist, crisis managers from a number of excellent research centres, opinion leaders, and ECDC stakeholders and staff members. Together they discussed about national policies on preparedness, innovative surveillance systems, and national organizations and policies to respond to epidemic threats. They identified some of the gaps in preparedness and risk assessment, and proposed some tools that could be used to fix them, like simulation exercises, adoption of risk Hazard evaluation approach and platform to share national preparedness plans.

ASSET project, and its predecessor TELLME, were represented at the meeting and their contribution was focused on the infected/affected approach as a fundamental element for an effective response. During an infectious disease outbreak, only a small fraction of the population become infected. However, the large remaining of the population, even though not infected, may still be heavily affected by the outbreak, due to a series of issues like schools closure, market losses or travel limitations. A proper preparedness plan must thus cope not only with the infected group, but also with all the rest of the population, in order to minimize the impact of a health threats on a country. In order to do that, it is mandatory to foster a crisis response approach that goes beyond the sole medical field, but also includes other multidisciplinary competences like sociology, anthropology and, most of all, professional health risk communication, which should become a central element in every strategic response to health crisis.

Although the EU and its member states have the resources and opportunities for effective humanitarian and medical action during crises, they did not coordinate an effective response, as the Ebola outbreak demonstrated. The European Union should thus establish an improved emergency response system for future epidemics, playing its part with courage and vision.

MMLAP and other EU Projects

Health system analysis to support capacity development in response to the threat of pandemic influenza in Asia
Making society an active participant in water adaptation to global change
Public Participation in Developing a Common Framework for Assessment and Management of Sustainable Innovation
Engaging all of Europe in shaping a desirable and sustainable future
Expect the unexpected and know how to respond
Driving innovation in crisis management for European resilience
Effective communication in outbreak management: development of an evidence-based tool for Europe
Solutions to improve CBRNe resilience
Network for Communicable Disease Control in Southern Europe and Mediterranean Countries
Developing the framework for an epidemic forecast infrastructure
Strengthening of the national surveillance system for communicable diseases
Surveillance of vaccine preventable hepatitis
European monitoring of excess mortality for public health action
European network for highly infectious disease
Dedicated surveillance network for surveillance and control of vaccine preventable diseases in the EU
Modelling the spread of pandemic influenza and strategies for its containment and mitigation
Cost-effectiveness assessment of european influenza human pandemic alert and response strategies
Bridging the gap between science, stakeholders and policy makers
Promotion of immunization for health professionals in Europe
Towards inclusive research programming for sustainable food innovations
Addressing chronic diseases and healthy ageing across the life cycle
Medical ecosystem – personalized event-based surveillance
Studying the many and varied economic, social, legal and ethical aspects of the recent developments on the Internet, and their consequences for the individual and society at large
Get involved in the responsible marine research and innovation
Knowledge-based policy-making on issues involving science, technology and innovation, mainly based upon the practices in Parliamentary Technology Assessment
Assessment of the current pandemic preparedness and response tools, systems and practice at national, EU and global level in priority areas
Analysis of innovative public engagement tools and instruments for dynamic governance in the field of Science in Society
Public Engagement with Research And Research Engagement with Society
Computing Veracity – the Fourth Challenge of Big Data
Providing infrastructure, co-ordination and integration of existing clinical research networks on epidemics and pandemics
Promote vaccinations among migrant population in Europe
Creating mechanisms for effectively tackling the scientific and technology related challenges faced by society
Improve the quality of indoor air, keeping it free from radon
Improving respect of ethics principles and laws in research and innovation, in line with the evolution of technologies and societal concerns
Investigating how cities in the West securitise against global pandemics
Creating a structured dialogue and mutual learning with citizens and urban actors by setting up National Networks in 10 countries across Europe
Identifying how children can be change agents in the Science and Society relationship
Establishing an open dialogue between stakeholders concerning synthetic biology’s potential benefits and risks
Transparent communication in Epidemics: Learning Lessons from experience, delivering effective Messages, providing Evidence