Health Systems for Health Security (HSforHS)

Breaking the panic-and-neglect cycle
“COVID-19 is not just a global health emergency, it is a vivid demonstration of the fact that there is no health security without resilient health systems, or without addressing the social, economic, commercial and environmental determinants of health.” - WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at the 73rd World Health Assembly.

The world today is increasingly interconnected and interdependent. People, goods and their related services move easily and quickly across regions and international boundaries. This global dynamic presents great opportunities but also comes with its share of challenges and hazards that continuously threaten our society. Foremost of concern are public health events that can emerge locally and spread globally, as has been seen with the COVID-19 pandemic. There is an urgent need for strengthened health systems which consider the full scope of interventions and actions required to sustainably provide health security. This is the concept of health systems for health security (#HSforHS), which goes beyond the current WHO Benchmarks for International Health Regulations (2005) (IHR) capacities recommendations to encompass the health system functions as well as necessary contributions from other sectors.

The health systems for health security (HSforHS) framework guides developing capacities for IHR, and components in health systems and other sectors that work in synergy to meet the demands imposed by health emergencies.

HSforHS offers an innovative and country-focused approach that builds on the lessons learned from recent health emergencies, including the COVID-19 pandemic. The HSforHS framework complements existing concepts and tools that support capacity-building for global health security.

The HSforHS framework is structured to:

  • support stakeholders to better understand what health systems for health security entails;
  • delineate the essential components of health systems and other sectors that play an important role in health security;
  • explain how countries can define, prioritize and monitor actions and investments in health security, health systems and other sectors that can support multisectoral and multidisciplinary management of health emergencies;
  • help partners and donors better support countries in strengthening their health security capacities; and
  • highlight challenges related to the implementation of the HSforHS framework.
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What does this mean in practice?

WHO is committed to supporting countries in articulating concrete multisectoral partnership actions to build, strengthen and maintain health systems that would contribute to health security at national and global levels. In this regard, the EHS unit launched the WHO HSforHS framework in May 2021, which is now available in all six UN languages.

The framework aims to support countries, WHO and partners in bringing together health systems capacities and other sectors to complement the implementation of the IHR. This is supported through the identification of foundational elements of health systems for health security and the enhancement of multisectoral and multidisciplinary engagement for effective management of health emergencies.


Purpose and objectives of the Framework

Purpose: To help countries, partners and WHO be better prepared to manage public health events by closing the gaps in health systems. This would lead to improved health security preparedness.

Objectives: Solidify a common understanding of what health systems for health security entails and how it contributes to better emergency preparedness to prevent, detect and respond to threats and events, identify all capacities that are necessary for health security, including capacities from the current WHO benchmarks for IHR, health systems and other sectors


Implementation tools

Alongside the framework, the EHS unit is developing implementation tools to guide countries on how to build health systems capacities for health security.

Benchmarks for health systems for health security (available soon): This technical document is intended to support the framework by mapping all capacities that are relevant for HSforHS for helping countries to plan and prioritize HSforHS capacity development activities.

Health system for health security global database (available soon): The database is based on a comprehensive list of indicators, determinants and available data sources that will help countries and WHO to assess countries’ strengths and gaps in HSforHS and prioritize actions needed for the enhancement of health security.

Information and training package (available soon): The package contains resources for raising awareness, sensitizing and training relevant stakeholders at all relevant levels on the need and approach to HSforHS (at global, national and local levels).