Protecting your home and community

World Health Organization’s Global Alert and Response

A photograph of a road sign warning that avian influenza control area is ahead

Bird Flu Hasn’t Gone Away

The World Health Organization (WHO) surveils emerging outbreaks of infectious diseases, supporting member states and mobilizing international response teams. A key unit within the WHO is the Global Alert and Response program (GAR).

GAR’s core functions are to

  • Support Member States for the implementation of national capacities for epidemic preparedness and response in the context of the IHR(2005), including laboratory capacities and early warning alert and response systems;
  • Support national and international training programmes for epidemic preparedness and response;
  • Coordinate and support Member States for pandemic and seasonal influenza preparedness and response;
  • Develop standardized approaches for readiness and response to major epidemic-prone diseases (e.g. meningitis, yellow fever, plague);
  • Strengthen biosafety, biosecurity and readiness for outbreaks of dangerous and emerging pathogens outbreaks (e.g. SARS, viral haemorrhagic fevers); Maintain and further develop a global operational platform to support outbreak response and support regional offices in implementation at regional level.[1]
WHO logo

WHO logo

The GAR has a unit called the SHOC, or Strategic Health Operations Centre, which monitors and responds immediately to outbreaks among member states, such as the 2002-2003 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS.

A stacked line graph of The number of SARS infections over 7 months in 2003

The number of SARS infections over 7 months in 2003

Below are two movies that illustrate their work. “Global Alert Response”is just over 5 minutes long, and the SHOC (Centre for Strategic Health Operations) is under a minute.

I found the films fascinating for two reasons. One was the information contained in the movies, which describes what WHO does about emerging infectious disease, the other was their old-fashioned feel. I couldn’t put my hand on it, but they felt like movies made in the 1950s or 1960s.

The WHO’s Global Alert Response Program                                                                         Strategic Health Operations Centre
A still from the WHO's Global Alert Response PSA

Global Alert Response Program

WHO GAR SHOC Screenshot of movie



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