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Brussels, 5 December 2008

Health security: Building stronger global collaboration

Today, health ministers from G7 countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, UK, US), Mexico and the World Health Organisation attend the 9th ministerial meeting of the Global Health Security Initiative (GHSI) hosted by the Commission in Brussels. The aim of the GHSI is to forge stronger global collaboration on health security by addressing health threats from chemical, biological and radio/nuclear agents and by developing preparedness and response on pandemic influenza. A communiqué setting out the achievements of the GHSI to date and defining future areas of joint work to promote collective health security was agreed at the end of the meeting.

This year’s GHSI ministerial meeting focused on 3 key areas:, on research and development of drugs and vaccines against health threats, on border measures and virus sample sharing for influenza pandemic preparedness, and thirdly, on crisis communication mechanisms among GHSI members.

Health Commissioner, Androulla Vassiliou who is chairing the meeting said: "The European Commission is committed to building a stronger global collaboration to address common health security challenges. In an ever more interdependent world, it is vital to collaborate closely with our partners to improve global rapid alerting and response systems on threats related to chemical, biological and radio- nuclear agents, pandemic influenza or wider health issues such as safety of the food chain and product safety. As a concrete way of sharing our progress, I have today invited all GHSI partners to participate in a preparedness exercise which the Commission plans to organise in 2010. Through this exercise, the GHSI partners could test the risk and communication systems in practice, in a simulated global crisis situation.”

The Global Health Security Initiative (GHSI)

The GHSI was first established in 2001 as a response to September 11th terrorist events and the subsequent release of anthrax letters in the US. Global health security covers a wide range of issues such as generic preparedness and response to encounter public health crises, pandemic influenza as well as threats caused by chemical, radio-nuclear and bioterrorism agents (by accidental or deliberate release).

Each year in preparation for the ministerial level debates, the GHSI collaboration brings together experts and senior officials from the G7 countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, UK, US) and Mexico and officials from the European Commission. The permanent secretariat of the GHSI is in Canada which steers the annual work programme of the GHSI.
The Global Health Security Action Groups (GHSAG) develop joint work in five key areas;

  • 1. The laboratory working group aims to improve diagnostic cooperation between laboratories where high threat pathogens like anthrax can be diagnosed.
  • 2. The risk management and communication working group focuses on risk and threat assessment (establishment of a core list of threats), media communication and rapid alert mechanisms (an early alerting and reporting project by GHSI partners is being piloted). The group has carried out capacity building on specific threats (e.g. ricin and anthrax).
  • 3. Border issues have a particular focus in the pandemic influenza working group. The differences and the scientific reasoning for border policy decisions (e.g. on entry screening at the airports and help for nationals outside of their own territory) is discussed in the ministerial.
  • 4. The chemical working group works on capacity building on toxic industrial chemicals and a list of chemicals of concern. In addition, the group is surveying medical countermeasures and areas for collaboration in drug research.
  • 5. The radio-nuclear working group supports the development of an International Radiological and Nuclear Laboratory Response Network. In addition, it is looking at possible collaboration on medical countermeasures research, development and stockpiling.

EU and health security

Health security is an increasingly important issue on both the European security and health agendas. To develop European policies on health security, the Health Security Committee was set up in 2001 and its mandate was renewed by the Council in 2007. It has a multi-annual work plan and links closely with Member State authorities in improving preparedness and developing concrete actions to address health security threats.

The European Commission and the EU Member States have an extensive programme of work in the area of health security, steered by the Health Security Committee, which is a forum for the senior officials from the Member States and the European Commission to examine health security related matters and develop stronger collaboration at the European level. The Commission acts as a liaison between the GHSI and the Health Security Committee to ensure that coherence of the work carried out in these bodies.

More information on the EU work on health security can be found at:

More information on the GHSI can be found at:

The Communiqué can be found on:

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