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 You are in: Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs > Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs > Releases > Other Releases > 2004

Health Ministers Continue Collaboration to Improve Health Security Globally

Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs
London, United Kingdom
March 14, 2002

London, England
March 14, 2002

1. We, the Health Ministers/Secretaries/Commissioner, are determined to improve health security globally, and to better prepare for and respond to acts of biological, chemical and radio-nuclear terrorism. This meeting builds on the international partnership we agreed to forge at our November 7, 2001 meeting in Ottawa, Canada.

2. International cooperation remains essential to the improvement of the health security of our citizens. Both individually and collectively, we have already taken concrete actions to enhance our respective capacities to deal with the threat of international biological, chemical and radio-nuclear incidents. We remain firm in our resolve and commitment to continue working together, and to coordinate our efforts in the interest of the health and security of our citizens, and to enhance our respective capacities to deal with public health incidents.

3. Today, we agreed to move forward on a number of fronts to further strengthen health security globally. Our current progress and future actions are as follows:

-- We fully endorse the World Health Organisation Executive Board's resolution adopted in January, 2002 on the deliberate use of biological and chemical agents, and radio-nuclear attacks. This resolution "urges member states to share expertise, supplies, and resources in order to rapidly contain the event and mitigate its effects". Efforts will be undertaken to urge all countries to adopt the resolution at the World Health Assembly, May 13-18, 2002.

-- Ministers have agreed that an exercise will be held which will test and build on current response plans and protocols for international assistance and collaboration. The United Kingdom has offered to host a meeting on modelling, one output of which will be to provide a basis for planning the exercise. Canada will draw together a steering committee to plan this exercise.

-- Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to the World Health Organisation strategy on search and containment as a strategy for smallpox outbreak control. Ministers welcomed and encouraged the World Health Organisation's offer to host a meeting to discuss issues related to the international health regulations in the event of a smallpox outbreak.

-- We endorsed a process to develop a framework for risk communication of Chemical Biological Radio-Nuclear (CBRN) terrorist incidents, in particular the development of an "incident scale". The UK has offered to convene and carry forward future joint working on risk and in particular the "incident scale." We have asked the Global Health Security Action Group to validate the framework against chemical, radio-nuclear and biological incidents, and to assess how this can complement current international arrangements in place.

-- We encouraged the exchange of information emerging from important research conferences and similar events in the area of biological, chemical and radio-nuclear terrorism in order that our respective researchers can more readily learn from others and make contact with other key researchers in this field. We also encourage efforts to collaborate and fund joint research initiatives, as appropriate, that will be in the interest of global health and security.

-- We have shared lessons learned on emergency preparedness and response plans, points of contacts have been established and joint training and planning sessions will be delivered. The United States will host, in collaboration with the WHO, a training the trainer session on smallpox outbreak containment.

-- We also intend to share plans on preparedness and response to chemical events and Japan will look at the possibility of hosting a meeting of laboratory directors and experts.

-- A meeting of Directors of high level laboratories was held in Lyon, France on March 12, 2002 which will lead to improved linkages among the laboratories in our countries and, therefore, our response to biological threats. This meeting will be followed by a meeting in Canada to seek common agreement on standards and cooperation among laboratories in participating countries, as well as assistance to other countries.

-- France and the WHO will organise a meeting on approaches and best practices in providing assistance to other countries with regards to health security and public health emergencies.

-- Germany will host in collaboration with the WHO and the EU, a meeting to review and define or redefine best practices in vaccine production for smallpox and other potential pathogens.

-- Italy is considering hosting a meeting next year to discuss best strategies in isolation techniques for patients with smallpox and highly contagious viral infections.

-- All member countries, as well as the WHO, the Pan American Health Organisation and the European Commission are now linked, or in the process of being linked, to the European Enter-net programme to ensure the swift sharing of data from national surveillance systems and information on unusual occurrences that could be potential public health threats, including information related to such threats on contamination of food and water supply chains.

-- We intend to further support the WHO's global public health surveillance and response, including public health events of international importance by:

-- providing support for existing networks and WHO coordinating response;
-- helping WHO to strengthen coordination activities to support national laboratory work;
-- considering seconding technical experts and technical and/or financial assistance.

4. We will engage with other countries on specific issues and make the most of any opportunity to share information on our efforts with other countries, such as at the meeting of the World Health Assembly in May 2002.

5. We remain committed to working together to strengthen our readiness and response to protect public health and security. We agreed to meet again in Mexico to take stock of where we are and to consider what further actions may be appropriate.

The statement was endorsed by:

  • ­ The Honourable Anne McLellan, Minister of Health, Canada
  • ­ David Byrne, Commissioner of Health and Consumer Protection, European Union
  • ­ Norihisa Tamura, Parliamentary Secretary for Health, Labour and Welfare, Japan
  • ­ L'honorable Bernard Kouchner, Ministre Délégué à la Santé, France
  • ­ Dr Roberto Tapia-Conyer, Vice Minister for Health Prevention and Protection, Mexico
  • ­ The Right Honourable John Hutton, Minister of State for Health, United Kingdom 
  • Dr Klaus Theo Schroder, representing the Honourable Ulla Schmidt, Federal Minister for Health, Germany 
  • Professor Girolamo Sirchia, Minister of Health, Italy (in absentia) 
  • The Honourable Claude Allen, Deputy Secretary, Department of Health and Human Services, United States representing Tommy Thompson, Secretary of State for Health

Notes to Editors

1. Ministers from the UK, USA, Canada, Japan, France, Germany, Italy and Mexico met in the Locarno Room at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The meeting was hosted by Health Minister John Hutton.

2. The first meeting was held in Ottawa on 7 November 2001. This recognised the urgent need to establish networks, linkages and early collaboration, and to constitute a network of rapid communication/response in case of crisis. With Canada serving as the Secretariat for this international effort, a Global Health Security Action Group of experts and officials was established. This Group has met three times to develop action plans and will continue its work of examining health security issues and implementing concrete actions. An internet-based Global Health Security Network is now in place, supporting the sharing of best practice and information and collaboration among the Group's experts and officials.

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