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However, being ready for an epidemic on paper does not necessarily equal strong performance in real life. Measuring a country’s ability to respond requires review of all elements of the global health security system—from laboratories and surveillance, to universal health coverage and leadership—work together to detect and respond to disease threats.
It’s crucial that countries act quickly when responding to outbreaks—infectious disease threats do not respect borders and can travel the world in 36 hours. One way to assess how well country systems work is by measuring a country’s response through timeliness: a start-to-end assessment of the speed with which a country detects, notifies public health authorities about and responds to infectious disease threats.
As a metric, we propose 7-1-7:
Timeliness metrics are useful because:
- They measure the strength of the entire health system—not just its individual components (such as the JEE).
- They use real-world events (i.e. past outbreaks) to measure readiness.
- They work as a performance improvement tool—stakeholders can continuously evaluate timeliness to identify where particular weaknesses in the system cause bottlenecks and then test solutions to address them.
It’s ambitious but achievable
Certain targets may vary by disease, but evidence shows that countries can detect suspected outbreaks within seven days.
It’s a simple, objectively verifiable benchmark
Clear metrics make it easier to communicate with politicians and the public, as the United Nations 90-90-90 goal for HIV demonstrates.
It simplifies a target
For each outbreak, previous work identified 11 timeliness milestones. We’ve simplified down to three metrics, to focus on the most critical steps and ease communication.
To support countries to be better prepared, Resolve to Save Lives is working with partners to pilot the 7-1-7 framework.
For a more in-depth breakdown of 7-1-7, read our team’s article, 7-1-7: an organising principle, target, and accountability metric to make the world safer from pandemics, which was published in The Lancet.