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Tuesday, April 16th, 2024

WHO launches PRET initiative to ready countries for next pandemics

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Last week, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced a new initiative to help countries prepare the systems and capabilities to manage emerging threats.

The Preparedness and Resilience for Emerging Threats Initiative (PRET) will officially launch on April 24-26, 2023, during a global meeting. Initially, it will focus on respiratory pathogen pandemic preparedness, and the program will consistently work to improve readiness for various pathogens based on their mode of transmission. Efforts will be conducted multi-sector, building on WHO recognition that most pathogens begin in animals before working their way to and through humans.

The upcoming meeting should also lay out the specific call to action associated with PRET, and members will lay out the foundations for its implementation.

That said, the initiative’s initial pitch included recognition of three tiers of systems and capacities relevant for pandemic preparedness: those cross-cutting for all or several hazards at once, those relevant for groups or pathogens such as respiratory viruses, and those specific to a single pathogen. With those laid out, participants will seek to improve existing systems and capacities, fill gaps in how the world collectively addresses these various pathogens, and prepare for them, to streamline efficiency and action during actual pandemics.

While this first module will have respiratory pathogens like flu in mind, PRET will develop additional modules for other pathogen groups over time, incorporating new lessons learned as it continues. PRET will operate under the International Health Regulations (IHR), which established countries’ core capacities to detect and respond effectively. New technical actions from PRET will be mapped to IHR’s core capacities and grouped according to five subsystems for health emergency preparedness, response, and resilience.

The new initiative will promote both whole-of-government and whole-of-society approaches to pandemic planning. Its modules will serve as living documents, adapting as needed to directions set by Member States. PRET will build on and replace existing WHO guidance, such as Pandemic Influenza Risk Management.