To help countries better prepare for future pandemics, WHO launched a new initiative today that provides guidance on integrated planning for responding to any respiratory pathogen such as influenza or coronaviruses.
The new Preparedness and Resilience for Emerging Threats Initiative, or PRET, incorporates the latest tools and approaches for shared learning and collective action established during the COVID-19 pandemic and other recent public health emergencies.
Through the initiative, WHO will use a mode of transmission approach to guide countries in pandemic planning, given that many capacities and capabilities are common among groups of pathogens. PRET answers the call for technical guidance and support for promoting and strengthening integrated preparedness and response, as outlined in World Health Assembly resolutions.
The COVID-19 pandemic and other health emergencies have shown that countries need to be operationally ready to respond to infectious disease threats, with tailored preparedness plans in hand and better coordination and collaboration with other sectors such as agriculture.
“Preparedness, prevention, and response activities must not be the province of the health sector alone,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “Just as health emergencies have impacts across many sectors, so must our preparedness and response efforts span sectors, disciplines and pathogens. It is critical, too, that community engagement and equity are the centre of our efforts, especially for those populations that are marginalized and most at risk.”
PRET is an evolution in WHO’s approach to pandemic preparedness through the application of a mode of transmission lens, rather than a focus on specific diseases. WHO will continue to develop and disseminate guidance on specific diseases as needed.
The launch of the initiative is taking place on the last day of meetings with over 120 individuals representing Member States, partners, and the WHO secretariat, to define the path forward for PRET, including the development of a global implementation roadmap for respiratory pathogen pandemic preparedness.
The PRET Initiative’s first module focuses on respiratory pathogens, including influenza, coronaviruses, and respiratory syncytial virus. Given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the possible threat of avian influenza, this module will enable countries to critically review, test, and update their respiratory pandemic planning efforts to ensure they have the functional capacities and capabilities in place.
A process is underway to identify the next group of pathogens, such as arboviruses, to be addressed under this initiative. This will follow priorities identified through the ten proposals to strengthen the global architecture for health emergency preparedness, response, and resilience (HEPR).
The PRET Initiative ushers in a new era for pandemic preparedness and represents an evolution of WHO’s core activities to support all Member States in strengthening health emergency preparedness, prevention, and response capacities and capabilities. The initiative can also serve to operationalize the objectives and provisions of the Pandemic Accord, which is currently being negotiated by WHO Member States.
Following inputs and discussions among meeting participants, WHO invites stakeholders to this global call to action to advance respiratory pathogen pandemic preparedness.
Call to Action
WHO, Member States, and partners are working together to identify and implement priority actions to strengthen national, regional, and global preparedness for pandemics and emerging infectious disease threats. We recognize the role of communities and all sectors, and the need for harmonized and sustained momentum to end the cycle of panic and neglect that is all too common in pandemic preparedness and response.
We recall lessons from previous epidemics and pandemics, especially those caused by respiratory pathogens. These pathogens have and will continue to pose a significant global threat with the potential to cause tremendous morbidity and mortality, overwhelm health systems, de-stabilize the global economy, and exacerbate inequities, which exist in the access to both the tools to prevent pandemics and health care for all people.
This is a Call to Action to accelerate preparedness for pandemics and emerging threats globally. Effective preparedness relies on robust planning and coordinated action. A collective commitment on the following actions will see progress achieved by December 2025 as will be described in the (Preparedness and Resilience for Emerging Threats (PRET) monitoring framework:
- Update preparedness plans that affirm priority actions and that have considered learnings from past events. Recognizing the risk posed by respiratory pathogens, planning for a respiratory pathogen pandemic based on the themes identified in the PRET Module #1: Planning for Respiratory Pathogen Pandemics is a priority
- Increase connectivity among stakeholders in pandemic preparedness planning through systematic coordination and cooperation. This includes building equitable systems; conducting joint exercises; and sharing information on good practices, challenges, and opportunities.
- Dedicate sustained investments, financing and monitoring of pandemic preparedness with a particular focus on addressing the gaps identified during past pandemics and epidemics.
The COVID-19 pandemic response has demonstrated what can be achieved with political commitment, community engagement and funding. At the heart of this work is to ensure equity to be ready for the next pandemic together. Whole-of-society action is needed to make the progress outlined in this Call to Action. Implementation should therefore strengthen the resilience of communities; maintain, sustain, and build on routine systems; and leverage broader capacities for emergency preparedness and response.
This Call to Action was released at the Preparedness and Resilience for Emerging Threats (PRET): Global Meeting for Future Respiratory Pathogen Pandemics held on 24-26 April 2023 in Geneva, Switzerland.