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by John F. Ryan, European Commission Acting Director for Public Health

by John F. Ryan, European Commission Acting Director for Public Health

Two years ago, Decision 1082/2013/EU on serious cross-border threats to health was adopted, with the requirement that a report on its implementation be given to the European Parliament and the Council by November 2015, and every three years after that. 

The first such report, adopted 7 December 2015, outlines both strengths and weaknesses, but in general found that implementing the Decision "had improved health security in the EU and the protection of the Union's citizens from communicable diseases and other biological, chemical and environmental events." 

The Decision requires Member States to regularly report on their state of preparedness, which strengthens EU co-ordination and provides for better coordination of risk management.

The Decision also provides for risk assessment and management of cross-border health threats that are not communicable diseases, helps to develop and implement the joint procurement of medical countermeasures and provides a solid legal mandate to the Health Security Committee.

Such advances are sometimes only possible when we learn from previous difficulties. The Joint Procurement Agreement for the Provision of Medical Countermeasures and Vaccines, for example, stemmed from facing a shortage of vaccines during the H5N1 avian flu epidemic in 2005/2006.  And the European Medical Corps, to be launched on 15 February 2016, is also a result of the difficulties we faced in fighting Ebola in mobilizing health personnel to the affected countries.

But new challenges always arise, some out of the blue, others looming in the background. The current Zika Virus outbreak is a good example. Antimicrobial Resistance has also been on our radar for years and is one of the biggest threats we've ever faced in the public health field.  We are currently in the final year of the Commission's 5-year Action Plan to combat AMR and while progress has been made, there is still much more to do.

That's why the Commission helped co-organise the first ever trans-Atlantic workshop discussing clinical trial networks in the field of antimicrobial resistance on 22 January 2016, and why we hailed this week's Ministerial Conference on Antimicrobial Resistance organised under the Dutch Presidency on 9 and 10 February 2016.

The Commission meantime is analysing its next strategy for AMR in the coming years, which will also complement the Global Action Plan of the World Health Organization.

The next implementation report on Decision 1082/2013/EU will be made at the end of 2018.  What's written in that report –  reflecting  how well we fared in combatting AMR and other serious cross-border health threats – very much depends on how effective we are in reinforcing preparedness and response to these threats not only at EU level but also internationally.

Cross-border threats to health

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