21 May 2014
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Canadian Minister of Health Rona Ambrose and Mexican Secretary of Health Mercedes Juan signed a declaration of intent May 20, which formally adopts the principles and guidelines, at a trilateral meeting during the 67th World Health Assembly in Geneva.
“The United States, Canada and Mexico have had a long and close relationship in supporting and improving our collective ability to respond to public health events and emergencies of mutual interest when they arise,” Sebelius said. “This declaration reinforces our joint efforts to strengthen our national capabilities to communicate effectively with our respective populations.”
“Infectious diseases are not limited by countries’ borders, and neither are the ways through which we receive the news,” said Ambrose. “This declaration will help our countries work together on the essential task of communicating more effectively on public health issues, which will protect the health of all of our citizens.”
“The collaboration between the three North American countries has proved to be an extraordinary contribution to strengthening the security of health in the region,” said Juan. “The clear, transparent and timely exchange of information has been, and will remain, a central pillar of this cooperation, particularly for responding to public health emergencies.”
The declaration calls on the three countries to:
• Share public communications plans, statements and other communications products related to health emergencies with each other prior to their public release.
• Apprise other appropriate authorities, depending on the type of health emergency, within their respective governments when the declaration is invoked.
• Conduct a short communications exercise annually to improve joint coordination.
• Hold recurrent meetings, as they may mutually determine, to review and propose amendments to the declaration of intent.
The formal declaration supports not only the requirements of the International Health Regulations, which call for neighboring countries to develop accords and work together on shared public health issues, but also the underlying principles of the 2012 North American Plan for Animal and Pandemic Influenza (NAPAPI).
The NAPAPI builds on the experiences of the H1N1 influenza pandemic and outlines how the three countries intend to strengthen and coordinate their emergency response capacities, including public communications, in anticipation of a pandemic virus originating in or spreading to the North American continent.