In November 2018, New Zealand will complete its first Joint External Evaluation (JEE) of the International Health Regulations (2005) (IHR).
The IHR requires the 196 World Health Organization (WHO) member states to:
- plan for and respond to hazards (including disease outbreaks)
- have a national focal point for coordination and communication
- respond to WHO requests for information about public health risks (eg, within 24 hours of events that may be a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC))
- develop and maintain ‘core’ capacities for surveillance, investigation, responding to and reporting of all potentially significant public health events
- undertake measures to avoid exporting public health risks.
The JEE process allows an external assessment of a country’s capability and capacity delivery of the core capacities outlined in the IHR. JEEs are voluntary, and have two stages – a self-evaluation and the external evaluation. New Zealand officials have been working on the self-evaluation since February 2018 and in November a group of external evaluators selected by the World Health Organization will arrive in New Zealand to undertake the external evaluation. The team of international experts will work with local experts to evaluate New Zealand’s preparedness for human and animal health outbreaks and health emergencies. The JEE process will provide New Zealand with recommendations on how to strengthen our national systems and address identified gaps, as part of an ongoing process of learning and improvement.
The Ministry of Health as the lead agency commenced initial planning for the JEE in 2017 with the process beginning in earnest in February 2018. The evaluation delves deeply into 19 technical areas and involves 23 government agencies. The Ministry of Health has worked closely with Ministry for Primary Industries, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management and ESR, along with the other agencies involved in the national security system, to undertake the self-evaluation.
The external evaluators are experts from the Netherlands, Australia, Canada, Republic of Korea, Italy and the WHO, as well as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the International Organisation for Animal Health. They will be accompanied with other observers and peer reviewers from Jamaica, Fiji, Vanuatu and the Cook Islands.
Other countries in the Western Pacific Region that have completed the JEE include the Federated States of Micronesia, Australia, Cambodia, Japan, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Mongolia, the Republic of Korea, Singapore and Vietnam.
The final New Zealand JEE report is expected to be published in 2019 and will form the basis of an action plan to address any recommendations identified.