Public health threats and emergencies pose devastating impacts, not only on the lives and well-being of people, but also on travel, trade, national economies, and societies. The long-lasting effects of public health emergencies, including the disrupted development of trade and economy, human disability, morbidity, and mortality, amongst others, can be exacerbated if the preparedness and response plans to such threats are weak. To ensure that countries are better prepared to respond to public health threats that negatively affect global health security, a need arises for a commitment not only from the health sector but also from multiple other sectors as well, thus raising the importance of multi-sectorial coordination (MSC).
To shed light on this issue further, EMPHNET hosted a webinar titled "Multi-sectoral Coordination for Preparedness and Response to Public Health Threats that Threaten Global Health Security: Lessons Learned from the COVID-19 Pandemic." Held on July 5, 2022, the 90-minute session offered a space to show how multi-sectoral coordination (MSC) can be an integral component for compliance with International Health Regulations (IHR) and the addressing of country gaps. The session also allowed for the sharing of country experiences from Iraq and Pakistan regarding the translation of multi-sectorial collaboration from theory to practice, with special emphasis on best practices and lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic. Discussions also focused on proposed recommendations and strategies to strengthen MSC in countries, and ways in which MSC gaps can be coordinated.
The session was led by three subject-matter experts namely: Regional Manager of Emergency Preparedness and IHR at the WHO Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean, Dr. Dalia Samhouri; Public Health Expert, Associate Professor at Baghdad University, Dr. Faris Lami; and Senior Scientific Officer, and Field Epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Dr. Mumtaz Ali Khan. These discussions were moderated by GHD|EMPHNET's Technical Officer, Ms. Leen Daoud.
Ms. Daoud started the webinar by welcoming the speakers and participants. She then introduced the webinar topic and proceeded to introduce the speakers.
The first speaker for the evening, Dr. Samhouri, started her presentation by stating that there are 343 recommendations stemming from reviews of global health preparedness during the COVID-19 pandemic. She then surveyed the status of multi-sectorial coordination in the Eastern Mediterranean Region (EMR) adding that multi-sectorial coordination is a dynamic process involving communities, civil societies, academia, private and public sectors, as well as UN International Organizations. She then listed the key elements of multi-sectorial coordination namely, country ownership, political commitment, alignment of coordination efforts, and formalizing such efforts. She ended with an uplifting note where she stated that “together we build a healthier, fairer, and safer world.”
Dr. Lami then shared Iraq’s experience in the area of multi-sectorial coordination (MSC). He stated that Iraq presents many areas where multi-sectorial coordination is key as there is high general public participation in mass gatherings in Iraq. Furthermore, several lessons are learned from global legacies, and there is past experience that could be built upon. He further identified several key areas in which multi-sectorial collaborations could be beneficial. These areas include; addressing the inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene challenges, reducing poverty and food security, reducing air pollution, and substandard or unsafe housing. He ended his presentation by outlining the way forward for achieving MSC in Iraq. He discussed the importance of revising the Public Health Act, further enforcing existing regulations, training the public health workforce stationed at Points of Entry and Mass Gatherings, and finally strengthening cross-border collaborations to accommodate the influx of pilgrims, as well as assigning a dedicated budget in the national funds for MSC.
From his end, Dr. Khan shared Pakistan’s experience in the area of multi-sectorial coordination. He stated that during the pandemic, the multisector coordinated approach made a major difference in COVID-19 response efforts. Utilizing existing capacities, Pakistan was able to quickly develop a system that has worked. He further added that countries should have an emergency preparedness plan and that those countries with limited resources need to prioritize their objectives. He further stated that frontline emergency responders are key, as well as the establishment of organized operation systems.
Following these presentations, Ms. Daoud facilitated the Q&A session where participants engaged in the discussion. She then concluded the session by thanking the speakers and the attendees for their participation.
A total of 105 participants attended the webinar, deeming it another success in the EMPHNET WEBi Series.