In November 2018, New Zealand completed 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.
In November 2018, after New Zealand completed the self-evaluation, a delegation from the World Health Organisation spent a week in New Zealand completing the external evaluation. The team of international experts worked with local experts to evaluate New Zealand’s preparedness for human and animal health outbreaks and health emergencies, and were supported by Ministry of Health officials, as well as by Ministry for Primary Industries, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management (now the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA) and ESR, and other agencies involved in the national security system.
The external evaluators were experts from the Netherlands, Australia, Canada, Republic of Korea, Italy and the WHO, as well as the International Organisation for Animal Health. They were accompanied by other observers from Jamaica, Fiji, Vanuatu and the Cook Islands.
The WHO final JEE report process provided New Zealand with four overarching recommendations and 54 priority actions on how to strengthen our national systems and address identified gaps. The four overarching recommendations are:
- Sustain and continue strengthening existing multisectoral, multidisciplinary coordination and collaboration around IHR-related activities at all levels, including through formalizing current arrangements where appropriate.
- Build on the momentum of the JEE process in New Zealand to strengthen implementation of the IHR (2005) and coordinate monitoring and evaluation across agencies through the IHR National Focal Point (NFP).
- Allocate increased, sustained funding and resources for advancing implementation of the IHR (2005) through APSED III, with a focus on strengthening national action around antimicrobial resistance (AMR), enhancing surveillance and risk assessment, addressing critical human resource needs and building risk communication capacity.
- Given New Zealand’s strong capability, consider formalizing existing arrangements and devising new ones where relevant, to support sustainable IHR implementation in Pacific Island countries and territories.
The Ministry of Health is now leading work on a National Health Security Plan that will build on the recommendations from the WHO JEE report