In 2017, the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law was designated as a WHO Collaborating Center to provide strategic support to the WHO Pan American Health Organization’s (PAHO/WHO) regional priorities. As a collaborating center, the O’Neill Institute delivers technical support for implementing WHO’s mandated work and program objectives and strengthen in-country capacity. This partnership affirms the common interest of the two organizations in using the law as a tool to improve the health of populations throughout the world.
The O’Neill Institute collaborates with WHO, and other regional offices, to work on several distinct areas relating to global health: food and drug law regulation, health governance, human rights law, and universal health.
In response to the SARS outbreak, the threat of influenza pandemics, and the changing nature of public health emergencies, the World Health Organization released the revised International Health Regulations (IHR(2005)). These regulations are the most important document governing the international response to public health emergencies. Since their release, they have guided local response to public health threats and have been applied to a variety of global health threats – most notably pandemic influenza, Ebola, and Zika.
National IHR Focal Points (NFPs) play a critical role in implementing the IHR, communicating with the World Health Organization, and assessing potentially reportable events. However, a review by the World Health Organization has indicated that many NFPs lack the authority, capacity, training, and resources to effectively carry out their mandate when it comes to their functions under the IHR. This can limit NFPs’ ability to communicate information about public health events in a timely and effective manner and could compromise the prevention and management of global health threats.
In order to address this issue, the WHO has commissioned researchers at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute (OHRI) to carry out an evaluation of NFPs’ experiences when it comes to implementing the IHR. In collaboration with researchers at Georgetown University’s Center for Global Health Science and Security and the O’Neill Institute, Dr. Kumanan Wilson and Lindsay Wilson at OHRI will interview and survey National Focal Points. The results of the study components will help TO inform and strengthen WHO efforts to support NFPs in their implementation of the IHR(2005) and their ongoing efforts to protect the world from global health threats. The results will also support a series of joint research projects undertaken by OHRI, the Center for Global Health Science and Security, and the O’Neill Institute.