Päivitetty 20.09.2022

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Strengthening preparedness and IHR implementation in the EU

SHARP Joint Action aims to strengthen preparedness in the EU against serious cross-border threats to health, and support the implementation of International Health Regulations (2005). “SHARP” stands for Strengthened International HeAlth Regulations and Preparedness in the EU.

SHARP Joint Action (2019 – March 2023) is a collaborative action of 26 countries and 61 partners. The joint action is co-funded by the Health Programme of the European Union (80%) and by partners’ own contributions (20%). By working together, the partners and the European Commission will ensure a safer environment for all EU citizens. The SHARP Joint Action works to strengthen member’s existing capacities as well as supporting improvement in those countries where IHR capability gaps exist.

SHARP started its actions in June 2019, coordinated by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, Finland; and co-coordinated by Robert Koch Institute, Germany; and National Institute of Infectious Diseases Lazzaro Spallanzani, Italy.

Special efforts are made to fill gaps that have been or will be identified in priority countries – those with the biggest gaps in the capacity required for full IHR capability.

Through the Joint Action, the member and partner states and the Union’s common ability to prevent, detect and respond to biological outbreaks, chemical contamination and environmental and unknown threats to human health will be strengthened.

SHARP Joint Action (SHARP JA) aims to strengthen:

  • The implementation of Decision 1082/2013/EU, supporting the Member and Partner States’ capacity to handle health threats.
  • The implementation of International Health Regulations (2005) and preparedness in EU Member States to increase the capacity on high level protection of health and security.
  • The resilience and response capacities of health systems by ensuring coherence and interoperability for preparedness and response planning.

Read the four page overview of the ambitious and complex SHARP Joint Action (PDF 324 KB)

SHARP Joint Action management structure and work packages

The partnership of the Joint Action consists of 26 Associated Partners and 35 Affiliated Entities, which all receive Commission co-funding. SHARP partners work collaboratively to identify and address gaps in the capacity to prevent, detect and respond to biological, chemical and environmental threats to human health.

Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Post Brexit, the UK remains involved under a memorandum of understanding. In addition, EEA member Norway, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Moldova and Serbia are associated partners of this JA. 

In addition, there are 10 Collaborating Partners that self-fund all activities that they participate in. In total, 30 countries (24 EU members, 3 EEA/EFTA members and 3 European neighborhood countries) participate in the Joint Action. More about SHARP JA partners.

The Advisory Board of SHARP JA includes HaDEA; DG SANTE; European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC); the World Health Organization European Office (WHO Europe); the Scientific Committee for Health, Environment and Emerging Risks (SCHEER) Rapid Risk Assessment Working Group for Chemical Threats; and HEALTHY GATEWAYS Joint Action.

SHARP Joint Action also collaborates with other European Joint Actions, specifically the Healthy Gateways Joint Action that addresses Points of Entry.

Geographical scope of SHARP Joint Action

SHARP JA’s goal is for all member states to adequately ensure that a health threat in one country does not get out of hand and spread to the neighbours.

In addition, an introduction of a high consequence infectious disease from outside of the EU needs to be controlled irrespective of which country it happens to land in. Only by working together for this goal can we ensure the protection of all EU citizens from high consequence health threats, be they infections, chemical or environmental threats.

This SHARP Joint Action covers most of the European countries. Post-Brexit, 21 of the 27 EU Member States are engaged as Associated partners:

EFTA member Switzerland, EEA member Iceland, and EU Member States Belgium and Bulgaria contribute as collaborating partners, which makes a total of 30 countries participating in the Joint Action.

Using 2018 national estimates from Eurostat, the SHARP JA covers 94.8 % of the EU population.

The impact of COVID-19 on SHARP Joint Action

On 30 January 2020, the World Health Organization declared that the outbreak of COVID-19 constitutes Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). The global response to the COVID-19 pandemic laid bare the weaknesses and major challenges in the international approach to managing public health emergencies.

Enormous pressure was placed on the public health institutes within the Joint Action. The pandemic has put health systems under extreme stress, with personnel having to adapt to unexpected and changing circumstances while continuing to provide high quality deliverables for the Joint Action.

In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, SHARP supported the EC and the Member States, and especially work packages for laboratory preparedness and responsiveness (WP7 in coordination with the ECDC) and for case management and infection prevention and control preparedness (WP10). Read more on SHARP JA’s contribution to the COVID-19 response.

The Work Package teams often being reassigned to their national Covid-19 responses, meant a significant decrease and delay in SHARP activities. In addition, the need to revisit the scope of some work packages arose.

Extension of SHARP Joint Action to March 2023

In the face of these unpredictable and unprecedented challenges and recognising the pandemic is a perfect illustration of the need for multilateral solutions and a coordinated cooperation on crisis preparedness and response, the European Commission approved 12 months, non-cost extension for SHARP JA to March 2023.

Read more on the European Commission’s extension for SHARP JA.

Subscribe to SHARP newsletter

Register to receive Newsletters and updates on issues related to preparedness from SHARP Joint Action.

By registering to our e-mailing list you will receive E-news bulletins from the EU SHARP Joint Action with the following information:

  • Sharing of key documents (guidelines, reports etc.) on IHR Preparedness
  • Updates of the progress of the EU SHARP Joint Action
  • Information about training courses organised within the scope of the EU SHARP Joint Action
  • Information about events organised within the scope of the EU SHARP Joint Action

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