What are the International Health Regulations (2005) or IHR (2005)?
The IHR (2005) refers to an international law that seeks to enhance national and global public health security. The Regulations entered into force on June 15, 2007 and are binding on all Member States of the World Health Organization (WHO) including Trinidad and Tobago.
The IHR (2005) aims to prevent, protect against, control and respond to the international spread of disease while avoiding unnecessary interference with international traffic and trade.
Revised in 2005 to broaden its scope to address existing, new and re-emerging diseases caused by biological, chemical and radio-nuclear agents, the Regulations support a formal, internationally- coordinated mechanism aimed at containing public health threats.
What are the main functions of the IHR (2005)?
The Regulations require that countries notify WHO of all events that may constitute a public health emergency of international concern. Timely and transparent notification of these events will reduce the potential for the international spread of disease and the unilateral imposition of travel and trade restrictions by other countries.
Designation of National IHR Focal Point:
Countries are required to report events through a National IHR Focal Point to a Regional WHO IHR Contact Point. Focal Points must be accessible at all times for communication with the WHO and is responsible for coordinating with other ministries and sectors within the country. The National IHR Focal Point for Trinidad and Tobago is the Office of the Chief Medical Officer in the Ministry of Health.
Core capacity requirements:
Countries are required to develop, strengthen and maintain core capacity requirements to detect and respond to public health emergencies of international concern by the extended target date of June 15, 2016.
What is meant by a “public health emergency of international concern”?
According to the IHR (2005), a public health emergency of international concern refers to an extraordinary public health event which:
- Constitutes a public health risk to other countries through the international spread of disease; and
- Potentially requires a coordinated international response.
Who is responsible for implementing the IHR (2005) in Trinidad and Tobago?
The Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago is responsible for implementing the Regulations. While the Ministry of Health functions as the National IHR Focal Point, the broad scope of the Regulations necessitates coordinated, multisectoral collaboration among a variety of national stakeholders in different sectors and ministries.
The WHO is responsible for conducting global public health surveillance and disseminating relevant public health information to Member States, including Trinidad and Tobago. The WHO continues to offer technical assistance in support of national efforts to fulfill the Regulations.
How will Trinidad & Tobago benefit from the IHR (2005)?
Compliance with the Regulations will improve the capacity of Trinidad and Tobago to detect and respond to any event which threatens the health of its citizens and the wider global community.