Home Humanitarian Health & Emergency Response WHO benchmarks for strengthening health emergency capacities


Benchmarking is a strategic process often used by businesses and institutes to standardize performance in relation to the best practices of their sector. The World Health Organization (WHO) and partners have developed a tool with a list of benchmarks and corresponding suggested actions that can be applied to implement the International Health Regulations 2005 (IHR) and strengthen health emergency prevention, preparedness, response and resilience capacities.

The first edition of the benchmarks was published in 2019 to support countries in developing, implementing and documenting progress of national IHR or health security plans (e.g. national action plan for health security (NAPHS), national action plan for emerging infectious diseases, public health emergencies and health security and other country level plans for health emergencies). The tool has been updated to incorporate lessons from COVID-19 and other health emergencies, to align with the updated IHR monitoring & evaluation framework (IHR MEF) tools and the health systems for health security framework, and to support strengthening health emergency prevention, preparedness, response and resilience (HEPR) capacities and the Preparedness and Resilience for Emerging Threats (PRET) initiative.

The benchmarks support implementation of IHR and HEPR capacities and are broad in nature to improve health security and integrate multisectoral actions at national and subnational levels, where appropriate. The benchmark actions are designed to provide guidance for capacity development to move up capacity levels as measured by the IHR MEF, including voluntary external evaluation such as the Joint External Evaluation (JEE) tool and the States Parties Self-assessment annual reporting tool (SPAR). Other assessment tools including the Performance of Veterinary Services (PVS) Pathway (from the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH)), the Dynamic Preparedness Metric (DPM), Universal Health and Preparedness Review (UHPR) and readiness assessments can also measure improvements in capacity, with the ultimate goal to sustain an optimal level of prevention, preparedness, response and resilience for health emergencies in the country.

Purpose of the benchmark tool

This document guides States Parties, partners, donors, international and national organizations, and other stakeholders on suggested actions to improve IHR and HEPR capacities for health emergencies. States Parties and other entities working to reduce the risk of global health threats can use the benchmarks and suggested actions in their national planning and investment processes to address gaps, including those identified by the IHR MEF, DPM, UHPR and other assessment tools.

The benchmarks can help countries delineate relevant steps to take to improve capacity in each technical area and document progress. The benchmarks are organized around five levels of capacity, from no capacity to sustainable capacity, mirroring the IHR MEF structure. The suggested actions at each level provide guidance to build the capacity needed to move up levels, starting at a country’s current level and working up to reach level five.

When to use the benchmark tool?

The tool should be used during a country’s planning process (such as national health plans, strategies and policies (NHPSP), NAPHS, hazard-focused plans, diseases specific plans, etc.) when a multisectoral and multidisciplinary planning team is identifying and prioritizing activities, when strengthening health.

Download: WHO benchmarks for strengthening health emergency capacities

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