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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

International Health Regulations Implementation and Capacity Building Branch

The International Health Regulations (IHR) Implementation and Capacity Building Branch  develops and manages programs, policies, and partnerships aimed at fulfilling the United States Government’s (USG) obligations under the World Health Organization (WHO) IHR (2005).

The IHR established a legally binding global health security framework agreed to by 196 WHO Member States to prevent, detect, and respond to acute public health risks that have the potential to cross borders and threaten the health of populations worldwide, while minimizing interference with world travel and trade.  This international agreement requires countries to:

  • Notify WHO of any event that may constitute a potential public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC) through their National Focal Point (NFP);
  • Strengthen their national public health capacities to detect, assess, report and respond to acute public health events, and;
  • Collaborate with each other and WHO during an international response.
Cover of the International Health Regulations (2005).  Full IHR text available at

The IHR Implementation and Capacity Building Branch portfolio spans activities with state, territorial, federal, and international partners to increase awareness, promotion, and implementation of the IHR both domestically and internationally.  Examples of our work include:

National Activities:

  • Managing the U.S IHR NFP
  • Monitoring implementation of the IHR in the United States, including the Joint External Evaluation (JEE)
  • Assisting other USG agencies to conduct public health notifications under the IHR
  • Coordinating USG development of the IHR JEE Roadmap

International Activities:

  • Strategic cooperative agreements to building and strengthen health security capacities in other countries
  • Supporting the WHO Regional Office for the Americas’ – the Pan American Health Organization –to strengthen individual countries National Focal Points and the regional network
  • Coordinating with WHO to enhance global public health emergency management systems

National Activities

U.S. IHR National Focal Point

The U.S. IHR NFP in ASPR is a tripartite structure that includes the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, the HHS Secretary’s Operations Center (SOC), and the IHR Program in the IHR Implementation and Capacity Building Branch.  The U.S. IHR NFP is responsible for the timely execution of all IHR-related reporting, communication, and coordination activities of potential PHEICs and other public health events caused by all types of hazards.  By maintaining active points-of-contact throughout the federal government, the U.S. IHR NFP ensures that the United States is able to rapidly and efficiently communicate and coordinate assessments and information sharing regarding potential PHEICs.  The U.S. IHR NFP also receives such notifications from the WHO and other countries, and distributes them as appropriate to USG partners.

The IHR Action Officers in the IHR Program and the SOC ensure that the U.S. IHR NFP is operational 24/7/365 and that all communication points-of-contact are updated as needed.  The IHR Implementation and Capacity Building Branch manages USG policy development and coordination when needed, as well as the periodic monitoring and reporting of the United States’ implementation of the IHR. Through routine activities as well as special projects, the IHR Branch assist other USG agencies to develop internal policies and procedures for IHR-related assessments and notifications, and ensures that they have access to the global network of NFP in order to facilitate investigations disease outbreaks and other public health concerns.  The notification protocols managed by the IHR Branch are closely aligned with other protocols for special notification and coordination of foodborne and animal health concerns.

2016 Joint External Evaluation of the United States of America

In 2016, the IHR Implementation and Capacity Building Branch led 23 U.S. government agencies through the country’s first JEE.  The self-assessment component occurred in February through May and the JEE visit from the independent, external assessors was on May 23-27 in Washington, DC, and Atlanta, GA.  The JEE system is as an international tool that measures 19 health system technical areas to determine the country’s capacity to prevent, detect, and respond to potential public health threats.

The external assessors that evaluated U.S. capacities were selected from among a roster of international public health, healthcare system, and scientific experts

The results of the 2016 U.S. JEE indicate that there are still important areas for improvement in the U.S. public health system.  ASPR continues to coordinate with interagency subject matter experts in developing an IHR JEE Roadmap and action plans to address the highest priority gaps.

Learn more about IHR Monitoring and Evaluation>>>

International Activities

International Capacity Building Program

The IHR Implementation and Capacity Building Branch coordinates a series of international capacity building activities, including strategic cooperative agreements and policy initiatives, to support global IHR (2005) implementation by working with the WHO, the Pan America Health Organization, several Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offices and centers, IHR NFPs of Canada, Mexico, and Panama, the Gorgas Memorial Institute for Health Studies in Panama, the Pasteur Institute International Network, and multiple other Ministries of Health in West and Central Africa and Southeast Asia, among others.

These programs focus mainly on:

  • Strengthening core public health laboratory testing, primarily for the surveillance of human influenza and other respiratory infectious diseases, highly pathogenic avian influenza, arboviral viruses, and poliovirus.
  • Developing advanced laboratory systems with partners who are capable of sustaining them, including biosafety level-3 systems, genetic sequencing, and other molecular methods.
  • Maintaining safe working environments in all laboratories through biosafety and biosecurity training and essential equipment.
  • Strengthening national public health plans and outbreak response systems, including early detection, assessment, and reporting of major public health events.
  • Promoting international scientific exchange, dissemination of the new surveillance methods, and development of best practices through conferences, workshops, and site visits.
  • Maintaining direct lines of communication with public health officials and technical experts in participating countries, including by strengthening IHR NFPs.

IHR NFP Strengthening

The IHR Implementation and Capacity Building Branch supports collaborative multilateral peer-to-peer NFP strengthening efforts in the America’s region as well as other regions.  In the Americas region specifically, this activity is achieved through a strong partnership between the IHR NFPs of Canada, Mexico, and many other countries in the Americas, under the leadership of the Pan American Health Organization, which serves as the WHO Regional Office for the Americas.  NFP strengthening efforts consist of peer-to-peer sharing of NFP best practices and other technical exchanges to support fellow Member States in their efforts to specifically strengthen NFP communication and coordination capacities.  Technical exchanges can include IHR event reporting procedures, transparent domestic information sharing protocols and templates for adoption and adaptation to partner country IHR NFP operations, as well as support in revising and/or drafting IHR NFP Standard Operating Procedures.

  • This page last reviewed: November 06, 2017