Finding Outbreaks Faster - Refining Metrics for Implementation

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Nov 27, 2018
by Oscar Tollast
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Finding Outbreaks Faster - Refining Metrics for Implementation

Fellows work together to improve responses to pandemics by refining Outbreak Timeliness Metrics Participants pose for a group photo at Salzburg Global Seminar

Following four days of lively discussion and brainstorming, participants of Finding Outbreaks Faster: How Do We Measure Progress? have helped refine outbreak timeliness metrics that can help guide progress toward meeting the goals of the Global Health Security Agenda and ensure compliance with the International Health Regulations.

Field epidemiologists, government and intergovernmental officials, NGO leaders, academics, and others working in 16 countries and territories convened at Schloss Leopoldskron, in Salzburg, Austria, for the program held by Salzburg Global Seminar and Ending Pandemics.

Through group work and plenary discussions, participants helped identify key barriers to implementation of the proposed metrics at the national and transboundary levels. They also provided guidance as to how the metrics could be refined to address these challenges.

During initial discussions as a group, the majority of participants felt Ending Pandemics should keep the six timeliness metrics initially proposed. These metrics include outbreak start, outbreak detection, outbreak reporting, outbreak verification, outbreak intervention, and public communication. As these metrics were discussed further, several participants stressed the need to identify how the outbreak was verified. This brainstorm led to a new metric being added, “laboratory confirmation.” Further, the group also added a final metric, “outbreak end,” bringing the final set of metrics to a total of eight.

On the final day of the program, participants discussed how the metrics could be implemented at a country-level. Participants suggested a level of consideration was required, as synergistic work is taking place within existing systems. The need for countries to have a sense of empowerment was noted as critical to enabling their engagement with the new metrics.

One participant indicated to help move things on the ground quicker, there needed to be a demonstrable impact which could be used to encourage the adoption of the metrics. This impact could be identified through follow-up research where the metrics have been tested and through visibility studies.

As the program came to an end participants concluded there is a need to develop similar animal timeliness metrics as well as forecasting metrics, the latter of which could focus on aspects such as the environment, political instability, and disaster events.

Moving forward, Ending Pandemics will continue to work on these timeliness metrics and build on the ideas which emerged at Schloss Leopoldskron.


The program Finding Outbreaks Faster: How Do We Measure Progress? is being held in partnership with Ending Pandemics and the University of Minnesota. To keep up to date with the conversations taking place during the program, please follow #SGShealth on Twitter and Instagram.