Closing the Gap between Outbreak Detection and Response: Group Creates New Metrics for Measuring Outbreak Timeliness

Photo credit: Salzburg Global Seminar/Herman Seidl

From November 4-8, Ending Pandemics and the Salzburg Global Seminar convened a group of epidemiologists, government officials, academics, NGO leaders and other stakeholders from 16 countries and territories in Salzburg, Austria to work on a vital component of pandemic preparedness: updating the metrics used to measure outbreak timeliness and devising strategies to facilitate their adoption during local outbreaks. Dr. Angela Hilmers, Senior Associate Director for Science at TEPHINET, attended the seminar along with several leaders and graduates of TEPHINET-member field epidemiology training programs (see participant list).

Participants discussed which metrics to include, the hurdles barring them from implementation, and how these metrics can be refined to address these obstacles. In the end, the majority of participants agreed to maintain the six metrics initially proposed by Ending Pandemics and to add two more (metrics 7 and 8, in bold font):

  1. Outbreak start
  2. Outbreak detection
  3. Outbreak reporting
  4. Outbreak verification
  5. Outbreak intervention
  6. Public communication
  7. Laboratory confirmation
  8. Outbreak end

“Convening this group was extremely beneficial,” says Dr. Hilmers. “These indicators are important for determining and improving an outbreak detection and response system. During this seminar, our focus was on agreeing on a set of indicators that are practical and sustainable that can be implemented.”

The group acknowledged that the success of implementation depends on engaging decision-makers from organizations that are critical to the adoption of outbreak timeliness metrics. A significant portion of the seminar was dedicated to brainstorming strategies to engage these leaders and encourage adoption.

“Implementing these metrics cannot occur in a vacuum. Socializing them amongst the right audience is critical for successful adoption, and we [TEPHINET] can help with this process,” says Dr. Hilmers. “Our network includes several key people from health ministries, public health agencies, and other regional and global organizations who need this information, and we can provide it through our platforms and events.”

Towards the end of the seminar, each participant was asked to make a personal pledge on behalf of their organization to move this work forward. According to Dr. Hilmers, TEPHINET will support the piloting of the new metrics by disseminating information across its network, providing venues for discussion at TEPHINET conferences, and working to incorporate the metrics into the evaluation framework currently being developed for FETP-Frontline.

More Information

“Finding Outbreaks Faster: How Do We Measure Progress?” (Salzburg Global Seminar session 613)

View photos from the seminar on Flickr and Facebook.