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Background & Table of Contents


Early and effective detection, notification and response are crucial to containing outbreaks of infectious disease and other public health threats before they escalate. Improving the identification and control of these threats requires setting ambitious but achievable targets and ensuring continuous evaluation and performance improvement.

Recent epidemics and pandemics have highlighted limitations in existing measures of health security capacity and underscored the importance of evaluating not only the presence, but also the real-time performance, of the systems required for early detection and response. Independent review committees have consistently recommended strengthened tools and processes for functional assessments that measure operational capacities in real-world situations.1

Improving early detection and rapid control of public health threats requires an approach that:

Monitoring timeliness metrics can be used to evaluate trends and identify improvements in detection and response capabilities.2

Yet, each public health threat is unique, and performance of detection and response systems will vary. Compiling and reviewing timeliness metrics on a routine basis enables data aggregation across events to better identify trends and types of threats (e.g., food or waterborne, respiratory, vector-borne, viral hemorrhagic fever, animal outbreaks), as well as which threats might require additional technical and financial support to improve system performance. Every health threat should be an opportunity to learn and improve.

In recent years, repeated failure to contain local outbreaks which have then spiraled out of control—SARS, COVID-19 and Ebola—indicates the need for stronger global response efforts. The 7-1-7 approach establishes a simple target for outbreak detection and response that enables public health entities at all levels to evaluate progress toward clear timeliness metrics, identify bottlenecks and implement actions for performance improvement.

Table of Contents

Section Accompanying tools
Step 1:
Coordinate with stakeholders to establish an implementation plan
Step 2:

Capture 7-1-7 data for public health events

Step 3:
Engage 7-1-7 stakeholders routinely for rapid performance improvement
Step 4:
Synthesize 7-1-7 performance to prioritize long-term planning and accountability
Step 5:

Use the 7-1-7 target for advocacy and accountability


1The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness & Response. COVID-19: make it the last pandemic. 2021. (accessed 19 June 2022). -International Health Regulations (2005) (IHR) Review Committee’s report^

2Impouma B, Roelens M, Williams GS, et al. Measuring timeliness of outbreak response in the World Health Organization African Region, 2017-2019. Emerg Infect Dis 2020; 26: 2555–64. doi: 10.3201/eid2611.191766.^

Global health security is only as strong as the weakest link.

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