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Australia’s health security to be put to the test

Australia’s world-class health system will be put to the test over the next week as the World Health Organization (WHO) evaluates our nation’s health security.

The Hon Greg Hunt MP
Former Minister for Health and Aged Care

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Australia’s world-class health system will be put to the test over the next week as the World Health Organization (WHO) evaluates our nation’s health security.

Visiting experts from Finland, Canada, China, Italy, Japan, New Zealand and the United States will conduct a Joint External Evaluation (JEE) of how well Australia has implemented the WHO International Health Regulations 2005 (IHR).

They will focus on Australia’s ability and capacity to detect, prevent, manage and respond to public health threats.

Australia has an excellent health system, but we are not complacent about risks. Our preparedness and ability to respond to emerging threats is vitally important to ensure we protect our nation.

The health sector alone cannot safeguard Australia’s health security.

We need to collaborate across governments and between jurisdictions on health, agriculture, food and chemical safety, radiation, disaster response, defence and foreign affairs. Many government agencies will play a role in this evaluation.

The external evaluation component is the final step in a year-long assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of our ability to detect, prevent and respond to public health risks.

We have looked to past experience and committed to continually improving our preparedness.

Over the next week, our systems, facilities, policies and infrastructure will be subjected to rigorous scrutiny designed to reveal any areas we can strengthen in our preparedness.

Australia fully supports the JEE program and has sent experts to many JEE Missions, including Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Bangladesh. Now it is Australia’s turn to undergo the evaluation.

The visiting officials will undertake a series of site visits across Melbourne. These include the Royal Melbourne Hospital, the Post Entry Quarantine facility, the Australian Animal Health Laboratory, Melbourne International Airport, the Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory, a state Vaccination Distribution Centre and the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services.

They will then travel to Canberra for technical discussions with a range of government agencies and experts.

I look forward to hearing the final outcomes of the evaluation and am confident they will be positive, while identifying areas for continuous improvement.

The WHO will publish its final results online in a Mission Report in December 2017. Australia will address any recommendations in a five-year National Action Plan.

Australians can rest assured that the Turnbull Government remains vigilant to existing and emerging threats and has in place excellent systems to respond.

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