However, being ready for an epidemic on paper does not necessarily equal strong performance in real life. Measuring a country’s ability to respond requires a review of how all elements of the global health security system—from laboratories and surveillance, to universal health coverage and leadership—work together to detect and respond to disease threats.
One way to assess how well country systems work is by measuring response through timeliness: a start-to-end assessment of the speed with which a country detects, notifies public health authorities about and responds to infectious disease threats.
As a metric, Resolve to Save Lives proposes 7-1-7: 7 days to detect a suspected infectious disease outbreak, 1 day to notify public health authorities to start an investigation and 7 days to complete an initial response.
The repeated failures of early responses to local outbreaks that became regional and global problems in recent years — SARS, COVID-19 and Ebola — demand an effective approach. By adopting 7-1-7 as a target to measure real-world preparedness and response, countries and funders have an opportunity to understand where critical weaknesses are, focus resources to address them and measure progress. This is a critical and practical step toward a healthier world that can prevent catastrophes like COVID-19 in the future.