The Collaborative Arrangement for the Prevention and Management of Public Health Events in Civil Aviation (CAPSCA) is a voluntary cross-sectorial, multi-organizational collaboration programme managed by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) with support from the World Health Organization (WHO). CAPCA was established in 2006 and is intended to bring together international, regional, national and local organisations to combine efforts to improve preparedness planning and response to public health events that affect the aviation sector.
Annual multi-sector, multi-stakeholder CAPSCA meetings are held in each of the ICAO regions. During the meetings, the apparoch to public health event management in the aviation sector is developed and harmonized globally.
CAPSCA also provides assistance visits to individual States/international airports. In such visits a small team of experts (two or three individuals, ideally including both aviation and public health personnel) visit an airport, usually over two days, and undertake a gap analysis of national/local preparedness plans against the relevant ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices (SAPRS), the WHO International Health Regulations (2005), which contain articles of relevance to airport and aircraft operators, and associated guidance material. A confidential report is provided that helps the State to develop is preparedness plans.
- Public health event — Any event that represents an immediate threat to human health and requires prompt action, i.e. the implementation of control and/or mitigation measures to protect the health of the public. (WHO definition)
- International Health Regulations (2005) — This core WHO document, abbreviated as IHR 2005 and last amended 1 Jan. 2016, defines the organisation’s mission and authority by international agreement, its responsibilities, its high-level relationships with other international entities, and its scope of action. The WHO calls IHR (2005) “the key global instrument for protection against the international spread of disease” that can “prevent, protect against, control and provide a public health response to the international spread of disease in ways that are commensurate with and restricted to public health risks, and which avoid unnecessary interference with international traffic and trade.”
CAPSCA was instrumental in coordinating a harmonized response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Generally CAPSCA is intended to improve preparedness planning and responses to a range of possible public health events, including:
- Communicable diseases (pandemic influenza, Zika, Ebola, Coronavirus);
- Chemical events (nuclear power-plant accidents);
- Volcanic ash;
- Water and food safety;
- Hygiene and waste management;
- Drones in humanitarian operations; and,
- Disaster management (natural or man-made disasters).
ICAO's website lists CAPASCA's objectives as:
- Public health protection, including the general public, air travellers and aviation personnel;
- Ensure safe and economically viable air transport, with minimal effect on international travel and trade;
- Assistance to states/territories with the implementation of ICAO Standards and Regulations (SARPs) and WHO International Health Regulations;
- Capacity building - Assistance to states/territories to establish national aviation pandemic preparedness plans and develop core capabilities;
- Facilitate multi-sector collaboration and cooperation;
- Training of CAPSCA assessors;
- Assess State readiness to manage (prevent and respond) to public health events in aviation and provision of advice to States and Territories;
- Further development and improvement of guidelines for the aviation sector.
The IHR 2005 requires WHO to maintain relationships with its 196 State Parties (i.e., participating national governments as of 15 April 2013), governmental organisations and 11 international bodies of adoption with which the WHO is expected to cooperate and coordinate its activities. Two of the international bodies — ICAO and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) — function as primary links to civil aviation.
Regarding one of the WHO’s highest priroties, the IHR (2005) states, in part, “State Parties shall, as far as practicable, inform WHO within 24 hours of receipt of evidence of a public health risk identified outside their territory that may cause international disease spread, as manifested by exported or imported: human cases; vectors [i.e., insects, rodents] which carry infection or contamination; or, goods that are contaminated. … Each State Party shall develop, strengthen and maintain ... the capacity to respond promptly and effectively to public health risks and public health emergencies of international concern.”
An example in recent years was the WHO transmitting to ICAO recommended changes to the Health Part of the WHO Aircraft General Declaration. With ICAO’s response received, the WHO revised its Aircraft General Declaration, informed its Health Assembly of final revisions, and replaced Annex 9 of IHR (2005) with the Health Part of the Aircraft General Declaration. ICAO’s website now publishes the Health Part for the aviation community.
In this context, the WHO also cooperated with the State Parties, intergovernmental organisations and the 11 international bodies of adoption of IHR 2005 in updating worldwide norms and standards and in coordinating related activities for “ensuring application of adequate measures for the protection of public health and strengthening of the global public health response to the international spread of disease.”
According to this agency, these relationships “build and strengthen the capacities of WHO to perform fully and effectively the functions entrusted to it — in particular through strategic health operations that provide support to countries in detection and assessment of, and response to, public health emergencies. As noted, collaboration includes the WHO’s provision or facilitation of technical cooperation and logistical support.
The WHO also collaborates, to the extent possible, with State Parties to mobilize financial resources that assist developing countries in building, strengthening and maintaining the capacities required under IHR (2005).
More information on CAPSCA is available on the CAPSCA website.