The aim of the workshop was to share experiences between countries, review procedures and identify key areas to improve the countries’ ability to respond to chemical events.
In 2015, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH) launched the Global Health Preparedness Programme (GHPP). Through this initiative, NIPH has partnered with Moldova, Palestine, Ghana and Malawi countries in peer-to-peer collaborations to support the implementation of the International Health Regulations (IHR, 2005). One of the common areas identified in each of these countries that need strengthening is the preparedness and response to chemical events. Therefore, representatives from the human and environmental sectors from each of these four countries participated in a four-day workshop that addressed key activities to strengthen chemical event preparedness. Participants shared experiences and collaborated on activities to address identified gaps in chemical event preparedness.
Experts on chemical and environmental preparedness from Public Health England participated and facilitated practical training on environmental health as part of the workshop. Site visits were arranged including visits to the toxicological laboratory at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and Department of Forensic Medicine at the University of Oslo. “It was valuable to have the experience from the workshop in Oslo and apply learning from other countries to Palestine”, says Ahed Halayga from the Ministry of Health in Palestine.
The International Health Regulations (2005) came into force in 2005. Since then, member states of the World Health Organization have been working towards full implementation of the core capacities that are necessary to detect, assess, report and respond to public health events of national and international concern, regardless of source or origin. However, many countries are currently unable to address the public health aspects of chemical events and emergencies. The implementation of the IHR (2005) core capacities is monitored annually. Countries reported relatively low capacities for handling chemical events, with 60% of countries reporting that required attributes are in place for chemical events in 2016.
“The workshop was a great success with interest and engagement from the participants”, says Elizabeth Peacock from NIPH. She underlines the value for countries to share experiences and get a better understanding of the specific challenges in order to strengthening poison control and chemical preparedness.