Chile, Guatemala Boosting Pandemic Preparedness

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)/WHO Regional Office for the Americas has developed a new framework of national programmes for preventing and controlling diseases caused by respiratory viruses with epidemic and pandemic potential, including influenza.

The new framework aims to support joint planning by national health authorities and PAHO/WHO to analyse, improve and expand existing preparedness and response capacities and optimize technical cooperation based on national strategies.

It is based on the Global Influenza Strategy 2019–2030 and includes 16 programmatic elements across the four global strategic objectives of surveillance, prevention and control, pandemic preparedness, and research. From December 2021 to January 2022, PAHO/WHO conducted an expert consultation to validate the framework and define three progressive capacity levels for each programmatic element where level A is the lowest capacity and level C is the highest. A total of 21 experts from 14 countries across WHO’s Region of the Americas participated in the consultation.

Since then, the framework has been piloted in two countries: Chile and Guatemala. In both countries, the framework was used to identify existing capacities for preventing and controlling diseases caused by respiratory viruses. Results and next steps were then discussed and agreed at high-level and technical meetings.

In Guatemala, 54 representatives from the Ministry of Health, other ministries, universities, scientific societies and international partners including the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention participated in the meetings.* The country was recognized to be at level C for three elements (in surveillance), level B for two elements (in surveillance and research), and level A for the remaining 11 elements.

In Chile, the meetings had around 70 participants, including representatives from the Ministry of Health (at national and sub-national levels), other ministries, universities and other sectors. The country was assessed in 17 programmatic elements (including an additional item on requirements for supplies, medicines, PPE and devices proposed by the country’s infection prevention control team). It was recognized to be at level C for eight elements, level B for four elements and level A for five elements.

Both countries have developed a National Action Plan including recommendations for improving prevention and control and agreed actions for the short, medium, and long term. PAHO/WHO considers that this initiative will strengthen existing country capacities and guide discussions on planning, management and technical cooperation among countries and other technical cooperation agencies.

*Participants included representatives from the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Agriculture and Nutrition, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Finance and the Interior, the National Coordination for Disaster Reduction (CONRED), the Red Cross, the National Institute of Statistics, the Migration Institute, and the Social Security Institute.

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