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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Combatting global threats that can affect our nation

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The interconnectedness of our world brings with it the ability for emerging infectious diseases and other health threats to spread rapidly across borders. Under a framework called International Health Regulations (IHR), Exit Icon the United States and 195 other countries, all members of the World Health Organization (WHO), signed an agreement to build their capacities to detect, assess, report, and respond to public health emergencies. These include collaborating with each other to implement specific measures at ports, airports and ground crossings to limit the spread of health risks to neighboring countries, and to prevent unwarranted travel and trade restrictions so that traffic and trade disruption is kept to a minimum.

In 2016, ASPR led 120 experts from 23 federal agencies through the first comprehensive self-assessment and the first international evaluation of how well the U.S. can prepare for and respond to public health emergencies.

Collaborating with like-minded countries to combat public health threats

Understanding that strengthening international cooperation with partner countries improve our national and international capacity to prevent, detect, prepare for, respond to and recover from health emergencies, ASPR has led the U.S. participation in multiple international initiatives. 

Since the inception of the Global Health Security Initiative (GHSI) Exit Icon in 2001, GHSI members have worked on strengthening capacity and on decision-making guidelines to address CBRN threats and emerging infectious diseases with pandemic potential. As the U.S. senior official to the GHSI, ASPR guided the development of a preparedness and event management framework, which includes:

  • international emergency communications protocols
  • frameworks to deploy medical countermeasures and for sharing laboratory samples
  • tools for threat and risk assessment of biological and chemical threats
  • a state-of-the-art IT platform for early alerting and reporting of world-wide public health threats
  • the establishment of a laboratory network
  • comparison and alignment of pandemic influenza preparedness and response plans
  • decontamination protocols in the aftermath of radiological events
  • alignment of risk and public communications
  • other response policy tools

ASPR also was instrumental in establishing the North American Plan for Animal and Pandemic Influenza, an agreement among Canada, Mexico and the United States to collaborate and strengthen capabilities across the health, agriculture, security and foreign affairs sectors among the three countries. The agreement establishes how the countries will assist each other and ensure a quick and coordinated response to outbreaks of influenza viruses in animals or humans. This agreement has been the basis for dialogue and collaboration during recent outbreaks of flu and other infectious diseases.

Helping partner nations curb the spread of disease

Recognizing the value of stopping diseases before they reach the United States, in the past 10 years ASPR has supported public health capacity building around the world to prevent, detect, and respond to disease outbreaks. As a result of these efforts, partner countries in Africa, South East Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean now have laboratory diagnostic and disease surveillance networks for influenza and other respiratory diseases. They have certified biosafety laboratories and National Influenza Centers recognized by the World Health Organization. They have regional training centers for thousands of public health practitioners and scientists, as well as stronger national response plans.

In addition, ASPR has established cooperative agreements with the World Health Organization to develop and strengthen standards for emergency operations centers across the globe and with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) to support the development of an international registry and to train emergency medical teams that can deploy internationally during emergencies. ASPR also participates along with Mexico and Canada in PAHO missions to strengthen capacity and protocols to ensure a rapid flow of information during public health emergencies of international concern.

These efforts are complemented by ASPR’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority which, through the Global Action Plan for Influenza Vaccines, Exit Icon has supported 12 influenza manufacturers in 11 low to middle income countries to enhance their capacity to produce influenza vaccine and expand global vaccine availability and access.

Responding globally to public health emergencies

ASPR has developed creative solutions to address complex policy, legal, regulatory, logistical and funding challenges that HHS and the U.S. government confront to send or receive public health assets during public health emergencies that require international action.

ASPR led the development, coordination, and implementation of policies and plans for HHS to expand availability and access of public health and medical assets including laboratory specimens, medical countermeasures, medical personnel, and protocols for international medical evacuation of patients. As the Ebola outbreak demonstrated, this type of cooperation can be critical not only to aid the affected countries but also to identifying and preventing threats from reaching our borders.
These policies and plans have been critical in responding to international events where ASPR played a key role in the response, such as:

  • 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic – ASPR led the deployment of 820,000 doses of antivirals to Mexico and the Pan American Health Organization Exit Icon and 16.8 million doses of vaccine to the World Health Organization.
  • 2010 Haiti earthquake – ASPR’s National Disaster Medical System deployed 270 health and medical personnel to Haiti to assist with the international response. ASPR also crafted the international agreements with other countries that permitted the United States to evacuate patients during the Haiti earthquake.
  • 2011 Japan tsunami and Fukushima nuclear accident – ASPR led the HHS Disaster Leadership Group to coordinate response policy across HHS and led the deployment of a team of experts to assist the U.S. Ambassador to Japan and the Japanese government. To coordinate activities and facilitate communications between the United States, the World Health Organization, and the International Atomic Energy Agency, ASPR convenedthe GHSI Exit Icon Radiological/Nuclear Threats Working Group.
  • 2014-2015: Ebola outbreak – ASPR supported the U.S. response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, deploying U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps officers to staff a medical unit in Liberia. Through collaboration with the Institut Pasteur, ASPR rapidly mobilized resources in Senegal that enabled the confirmatory diagnostics for Ebola. ASPR staff also coordinated with the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense to accelerate development and manufacturing of medical countermeasures to prevent and treat Ebola infection, including deploying experts to assist the World Health Organization and affected countries to set up clinical trials for vaccine.
  • 2016: Zika outbreak – ASPR convened the USG sample sharing working group under the HHS Disaster Leadership Group, which helped obtain the first samples of serum from Zika patients needed by CDC and FDA and to validate clinical diagnostics and blood supply safety.

  • This page last reviewed: December 15, 2016