WMA calls for Greater Physician Involvement in Preparing for Health Emergencies

The World Medical Association has again expressed its serious concern about the world's ability to respond to another outbreak of SARS or similar health emergency.

At the WMA's Council meeting in Divonne-les-Bains, France, physician delegates from around the world strongly urged governments to build front line physicians more effectively into an early warning system.

In the light of the recent outbreak of SARS, the WMA Council approved a resolution to strengthen early detection and surveillance measures. In particular it urged 'that physicians everywhere in the world, includingthose in Taiwan, have unlimited access to WHO programs and information concerning health emergencies'.

The resolution builds on the joint discussion document issued recently by the WMA and the Canadian Medical Association that looked at the lessons from last year's SARS outbreak in Canada.

Dr Henry Haddad, the Canadian delegate to the WMA Council, suggested a strategic partnership agreement between the WMA and WHO 'to make sure we don't hit the snooze button again.'

Dr Yoram Blachar, chairman of the WMA Council, said the international community must be constantly alert to the threat of emerging disease outbreaks and be ready to respond with a global strategy. And he urged physicians around the world to be alert to the occurrence of unexplained illnesses and deaths in their community.

'We can no longer count on oceons to protect us against the spread of SARS . Viruses don't need visas'.

The resolution urges physicians and national medical associations to participate in developing and implementing disaster preparedness and response protocols.