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Is Nigeria Prepared for the Next Epidemic?

PreventEpidemics.org Highlights Gaps in Preparedness and Encourages Action to Save Lives
By Tracey Johnston
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June 22, 2018, Aspen, CO, USA – The world will face another unpredictable epidemic, but most countries are not prepared to find, stop, and prevent its spread. A new website launched today, PreventEpidemics.org , shows Nigeria is not prepared for the next epidemic, and highlights specific actions civil society organizations and concerned citizens in Nigeria can take to help the country better prepare.

The website is being launched today at the annual Aspen Ideas Spotlight Health Festival by Dr. Tom Frieden, former US CDC Director and now President and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives , an initiative of the global health organization Vital Strategies , and Amanda McClelland, RN, MPH, its Senior Vice President, who also coordinated frontline Ebola response during the 2014 Ebola epidemic. The website is the first to provide a single ReadyScore for every country based on their ability to find, stop and prevent epidemics; it also provides advocacy tools to help make health protection a priority.

“By the end of this year, nearly 100 countries will have completed a rigorous, transparent assessment of how prepared they are for an epidemic – but there has been too little support from the global community and countries to adequately close life-threatening gaps,” says Dr. Tom Frieden. “It’s not a matter of if there will be another global epidemic, but when. It’s time for the global community and countries to step up and improve preparedness.”

“The world won’t be safe until we step up by mobilizing and effectively using global, country, and local resources – including money and trained, supported public health staff,” said Amanda McClelland, who served as the Team Lead of Global Epidemic Preparedness of the International Federation of the Red Cross before joining Resolve to Save Lives. “How can we prevent a child in Ukraine from contracting measles, or a nurse in Sub-Saharan Africa from getting Ebola? Our website not only communicates the risk of epidemics at the country level, but, most importantly, encourages action to reduce these risks.”

Resolve to Save Lives partners with countries to help step up preparedness, especially in four critical areas: strengthening disease tracking systems, training and staffing epidemiologists, supporting laboratory networks, and developing effective rapid response teams.

A key feature of PreventEpidemics.org is the ReadyScore , a measure of country preparedness based on existing data from the Joint External Evaluation (JEE), an external assessment developed by the World Health Organization and partner organizations to help countries find and close gaps in epidemic preparedness. ReadyScore uses JEE data to calculate a numerical score – from 0 to 100 – representing a country’s ability to prepare for and respond to an epidemic. Nigeria’s ReadyScore is 39. Resolve to Save Lives considers countries with a ReadyScore above 80 as better prepared for an epidemic, countries between 40 and 79 have work to do, and countries below 40 are not ready.

These scores can drive action at the country and global level by motivating countries to go up a step in preparedness, overall and by specific preparedness area.

PreventEpidemics.org provides advocacy tools, including detailed global and country-level data, highlights of country preparedness strengths and gaps, and action plans to engage with decision makers to improve epidemic preparedness. Advancing toward a world safe from epidemics is central to the new WHO general programme of work, which was approved at the 2018 World Health Assembly. One of three strategic priorities for 2019-2023 is ensuring that at least one billion more people are safer from health emergencies, including infectious disease outbreaks.

“Participating in the JEEs has shown true commitment by governments, but hasn’t been matched by a national commitment from the global community and by commitment of budget and human resources,” said Amanda McClelland. “PreventEpidemics.org helps empower advocates to ask their leaders for the human and financial resources needed to fill the thousands of life-threatening gaps identified by the JEE.”

Additional information:
A Joint External Evaluation is a voluntary assessment initiated at the request of countries and conducted first by a team of domestic experts and then validated by a team of independent international experts. Like a report card, the evaluation assesses and rates capacity in 19 preparedness areas, such as whether countries have effective disease surveillance systems, laboratories, communications mechanisms and coordination centers. The JEE is one of four components of the IHR Monitoring and Evaluation Framework (JEE, Annual Reporting, After Action Review and Simulation Exercises).

Of the 65 countries that have conducted a Joint External Evaluation and released results, only nine countries (14%) scored over 80 in epidemic preparedness to address health threats. Fifty-six (86%) scored lower than 80, which means they have considerable gaps to fill to ensure their people are safe from infectious disease, chemical and radiologic threats.

The ReadyScore recognizes that no country will ever be completely safe from the threat of epidemics, however, strong and robust systems to find and stop threats can minimize preventable illness and death in the event of new or emerging infectious diseases.

An additional 21 countries, out of a total of 194 countries, have either requested or started a Joint External Evaluation. The rest are either using different metrics to evaluate their capacities to prevent, detect and respond to public health emergencies and have not published the results or are not yet engaged in assessing capacitiesfor health emergencies.

The ReadyScore consolidates 19 areas of epidemic preparedness assessed during a JEE. Within those areas, more than 50 factors are assessed, such as whether a country has a national laboratory system to diagnose diseases, and what is the capacity of its public health workforce to find, stop and prevent epidemics. The JEE rates each of the indicators on a scale of 1 – 5. One, is “no capacity” and is coded red. Two and three indicate the “need to build capacity” (limited or developed capacity) and are coded yellow. Four and five indicate “sustainable capacity” and are in the desired green band. The ReadyScore is the average score of the nineteen area scores, placed on a scale of 0 to 100.