April 30, 2015
WHO Collaborating Centres for Health at Mass Gatherings convene during the World Congress for Disasters and Emergency Medicine, 2015
On the 19th and 20th of April 2015, representatives from the designated and potential Collaborating Centres from five regions, representatives from the WHO Regional Offices for Europe, and for the Americas and WHO Headquarters, gathered in Cape Town, South Africa, in conjunction with the 19th World Congress for Disasters and Emergency Medicine.
Professor Andy Stergachis and Rod Hoff travelled to Cape Town, to participate in the discussions as representatives of the WHO designated Collaborating Centre for Mass Gatherings Public Health at the Department of Global Health, University of Washington. A network of Collaborating Centres has been established in line with the WHO’s Executive Board Decision of January 2012, mandating the WHO to build capacity within Member States for health at mass gatherings.
Mass gatherings are becoming more frequent, and attracting greater international participation. Mass gatherings place additional pressures on health systems and have been described in 2010 as a “stress test for public health” by Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General. Hosting a successful event requires effective intersectoral co-ordination and communication, as well as relevant resources. Mass gatherings therefore provide the opportunity to bring about lasting benefits, a legacy, to health systems and health security.
The primary aim of April 2015 meeting in South Africa was to review progress on issues identified at the Novi Sad meeting in 2013. Additionally, two landmark reports were released and discussed: Public Health for Mass Gatherings: Key Considerations and the 2010 FIFA World Cup Public Health Legacy: Analysis of the Benefits arising from the Organisation of a Mass Gathering. Participants also heard a report on the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030. During the meeting, opportunities were identified for cross-national collaborations and initiatives among the Centres and the wider network of experts in the field of mass gatherings in order to define priorities in mass gathering health development and to establish a network strategy for taking this work forward. Key issues that emerged for priority attention pertained to integration, legacy consideration, the development of practical, evidence-based tools, and the need for focus on evaluation and metrics and operational support for member countries. The principle outcome of the two-day meeting was a commitment from Collaborating Centres to continue to work together to advance the science, practice, application, operational implementation, and evaluation of mass gathering health. The WHO Collaborating Centre network will keep working closely with existing technical mass gatherings networks and across regions to improve health at events and to help ensure a positive legacy from these.
Members of the WHO Mass Gatherings Collaborating Centre network:
- Disaster Research Centre, Flinders University, Australia
- Public Health England, United Kingdom
- National Institute of Communicable Diseases , South Africa
- Institute of Public Health of Vojvodina, Serbia
- Department of Global Health, University of Washington, United States of America
- Ministry of Health, Saudi Arabia
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, United States of America (in process)