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Pandemic Risk and Emergency Management

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - PANDEM (Pandemic Risk and Emergency Management)

Reporting period: 2015-09-01 to 2017-03-31

Context

Pandemics have had a major impact on the health and security of human populations for millennia. Plague, also known as the Black Death killed one third of Europe’s population in the Middle Ages and Spanish flu which led to over 50 million deaths in the early 20th century are etched into the historical and folk memory.

Since the beginning of the this millennium, a new disease called Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) emerged in China in 2003 and spread from Hong Kong through international transport hubs to multiple countries within days causing major disruption and economic damage estimated at €70 billion. The most recent H1N1 influenza pandemic in 2009 spread around the world in weeks affecting all continents with significant health, economic, political, social, cultural and environmental consequences. More recently, outbreaks of Zika virus, Ebola and MERS-CoV have caused death, illness and alarm, and led to severe social and economic disruption. In addition, an increasing concern is the accidental and intentional release of dangerous pandemic prone pathogens which poses a major threat to human health and security.

Future epidemics and pandemics are difficult to predict or prevent, but improved preparedness and response can dramatically reduce the disruption they cause. PANDEM brought together experts in public health, security, defence, information technology, communications and law from a range of institutions across Europe to understand more about the current state of preparedness and response, and to make recommendations for future improvements to build capacity.

The overall objectives of PANDEM were to review and assess current best practice for pandemic preparedness and response at national, EU and global level in priority areas of risk assessment, surveillance, communications and public information, governance and legal frameworks. Once gaps had been identified, the next phase was to identify potential areas for improvement, priority research questions, potential technological and systems solutions, and contribute to impact reduction for future pandemics.
The PANDEM project conducted a comprehensive review of pandemic management across European Union Member States and beyond, and identified gaps in technologies, systems and capacity at national, EU and global levels. An initial expert workshop was held in February 2016 to identify best practice and define improvement needs for strengthening pandemic surveillance, communication and governance.

The PANDEM consortium then conducted solution specification that was reviewed during a second expert workshop, held in September 2016. Bringing together the outcomes of these two workshops with expert input and the work of other EU projects, the consortium refined and prioritised potential solutions. These have been tested with all our partners, and are now being presented to the European Commission as proposed next steps to improve pandemic preparedness and response across the European Union.


Main results

Based on research and expert inputs, as well as gaps identified to date, the consortium has recommended that the European Commission should move on to a demonstration project to further develop innovative solutions across three areas of work:

1. Governance, Planning and Communications
Advance planning and community engagement to build trust and societal resilience

2. Situational Awareness and Decision Support
State of the art surveillance, detection and prediction tools that support effective decision-making

3. Workforce Capacity, Training and Networking
Enhanced knowledge-sharing and immersive multi-sectoral learning, cross-sectoral simulation exercises and networking to maximise operational preparedness and response.

These three strands are mutually reinforcing and the solutions proposed are closely linked and cross-cutting. They include targeted research to advance knowledge and practice in key areas, to leverage progress in information technology, and make best use of innovative training, learning and knowledge sharing methodologies.
Progress beyond state of the art

PANDEM-CAP (Pandemic Capacity): the project developed a pandemic simulator and resource modelling tool to support Member States to assess current capacity and plan for the next pandemic.


Potential social and socio-economic implications

Improved early warning, preparedness and response will help the European Union to limit the impact of future epidemics and pandemics. This will not prevent epidemics from occurring – they are a biological certainty – but with improved systems in place, the potential impact on the lives, health, security of European citizens can be reduced.

Research and analysis by the PANDEM project have clearly identified the areas where further work is needed, in order to improve the European Union’s readiness to respond to future pandemics. This additional work will help to improve the intricate web of systems, coordination, communications and governance that are needed in order to ensure that the EU, its Member States and its citizens are as prepared as possible to respond to the next pandemic.
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