Simulation Exercises and After Action Reviews are effective tools to evaluate EU-level crisis preparedness

A report by Work Package 5 of the SHARP Joint Action shows that Simulation Exercises (SimEx) and After and Intra-Action Reviews (AAR/IAR) can be used to effectively evaluate EU level public health preparedness and competent authorities should ensure the consistent implementation of their results.

The report analysed the feasibility of using SimEx and AAR/IAR as part of the monitoring for IHR (2005) core capacities and implementation of Decision 1082/2013/EU at the European level. By reviewing 17 SimEx and 2 Intra-Action Reviews (IAR) organized by the European Commission between 2005 and 2018 the report assessed how these tools can be used to improve EU-level preparedness. The 357 recommendations that these exercises produced were also analysed to see how they link to lessons learnt during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Simulation exercises often predict real-life challenges in preparedness and response

A comparison between recommendations arising from SimEx/IAR and the early lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic reveal important similarities. The exercises analysed had already identified many of the challenges that the EU would face in its response to the pandemic and had also proposed recommendations to different agencies.

Challenges, however, remain in the systematic implementation of recommendations. One reason for this is the lack of a system to assign responsibility for follow-up to relevant actors and to monitor the implementation of lessons learnt on the EU level.

Implementation of remedies to identified gaps strengthens preparedness on the EU level

Going forward, it will be important to ensure that the teachings that these exercises provide are put into practice and responsibility for follow-up is assigned. Some initiatives to this end are already underway. For instance, the European Commission is developing a database for SimEx, with the aim of tracking progress on implementation of recommendations to EU agencies.

Improved follow-up and implementation will have a positive impact on the ability of the EU to respond to public health crises in the future, a task which will become even more important with the new European Health Union.

This report is one of the deliverables of WP5 and forms part of the objective to support ongoing processes lead by ECDC and WHO to compile and use the results of SimEx and AAR/IAR systematically to inform the monitoring and evaluation of IHR (2005) capacities and implementation of Decision 1082/2013/EU at the European level. Work Package 5 of the SHARP Joint Action focuses on IHR core capacity strengthening and assessment.

Read the entire report here.

The WP5 presentation at the European Public Health Conference also highlighted the importance of SimEx and AAR/IAR. Read the slides here.

Read more about SHARP JA Work Package 5.

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