The International Health Regulations (IHR), the only global regulations
for infectious disease control, have not been significantly changed since
they were first issued in 1951. The World Health Organization (WHO) is currently
engaged in a process to modernize the IHR. This article reviews WHO's draft
revised IHR and recommends new reforms to improve global health, which include
(1) a robust mission, emphasizing the WHO's core public health purposes, functions,
and essential services; (2) broad scope, flexibly covering diverse health
threats; (3) global surveillance, developing informational networks of official
and unofficial data sources; (4) national public health systems, setting performance
criteria, measuring outcomes, and holding states accountable; (5) human rights
protection, setting science-based standards and fair procedures; and (6) good
governance, adopting the principles of fairness, objectivity, and transparency.
The WHO should ensure state compliance with health norms and generous economic
and technical assistance to poorer countries. An important issue for the international
community is how sovereign countries can join together to make global health
work for everyone, the poor and the wealthy alike.
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