The WHO Office in Lyon, France — a Centre of Excellence in strengthening public health laboratories — contributes to global health security and supports countries in building stronger health emergency capacities. Today, the Office is celebrating its 20th anniversary. 

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director General and His Excellency Olivier Véran, French Minister of Health, delivered video remarks at the high-level, 20th anniversary event.

“We have learned from the COVID-19 crisis that we need to go further to better prepare and respond to tomorrow’s health emergencies,” said Minister Olivier Véran. “The WHO Lyon Office will have an important role to play in this future global health architecture.”

The event was hosted by WHO and the Lyon Métropole, represented by Bruno Bernard, President of Lyon Metropole and attended by various local, regional, national and global public health actors such as the Mérieux Foundation.

WHO and its partners have joined forces by creating a WHO office based in Lyon, 20 years ago, to strengthen epidemic preparedness and response, particularly in countries with less developed health resources and infrastructure.

“The Lyon Office is playing a strong role in WHO’s global preparedness, readiness and response to disease epidemics and pandemics, including COVID-19,” said Dr. Mike Ryan, Executive Director, WHO Health Emergencies Programme. “It has emerged as Centre of Excellence in strengthening public health laboratories, showing that the collective vision and investment of the WHO and the founding partners of the Lyon Office has borne fruit. I thank the French government, the Lyon Metropole and all the Lyon Office technical and financial partners for their continuous and invaluable support in the past 20 years and in the future.”

This event brought together many dignitaries and high-ranking officials such as:

  • Dr Mike Ryan, Executive Director, WHO Health Emergencies Programme (WHE)

  • Dr Jaouad Mahjour, Assistant Director General, Emergency Preparedness, WHE

  • Pr. Jérôme Salomon, French Health Director-General

  • Her Excellency Stéphanie Seydoux, French Ambassador for Global Health 

  • Mr. Bruno Bernard, President, Lyon Métropole

“The Lyon Métropole is a long-standing partner of WHO. Today, it continues its 20-year commitment to the Lyon Office, which contributes to the scientific leadership and strong dynamism of the health sector in the region and beyond. Its role was, and remains, crucial in the context of the COVID-19 crisis, particularly in terms of standardization of intervention practices and coordination between countries, even though crises often trigger withdrawal into oneself and exacerbates international competition. I am delighted that the Offices’ teams will soon be able to join, in the heart of the Bio-district of Lyon, the building which will also house the WHO Academy. This will encourage synergies within WHO and with stakeholders within our ecosystem, to meet current and future health challenges. We are, thus, reaffirming, through you, the contribution of France and the Lyon Metropole to global health,” highlighted Bruno Bernard, President, Lyon Metropole

The event also attracted a panel of global and national experts from countries, national health agencies, the scientific community in Lyon and France and WHO, to discuss and share experiences on critical aspects of public health laboratories in health emergencies.

COVID-19 has demonstrated the value of quality-assured and well-managed public health laboratories in the prevention, detection and control of disease outbreaks, which saves lives and resources. When the pandemic struck, the Lyon Office assisted thousands of laboratories in more than 100 countries to improve the quality of their testing capacity for COVID-19. It quickly built an online community for thousands of laboratory professionals from more than 180 countries so they could engage, learn and collaborate with each other. It also supported the diagnostics pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator.

Over the past two decades, the Lyon Office has played a crucial role in WHO’s preparedness and response to disease outbreaks and supported countries to:

  • scale up laboratory capacities for safe, reliable and timely testing for epidemics and pandemics
  • develop quality-assured laboratory networks complying with international accreditation standards
  • develop the public health laboratory workforce 

As a Centre of Excellence in strengthening public health laboratories, the Lyon Office supports Member States to foster the next generation of laboratory managers and leaders, who can build and sustain strong laboratory systems in countries. It has pioneered and launched the Global Laboratory Leadership Programme initiative and partnered with specialized global health agencies that work at the intersection of animal-human-environmental health, aligned with the One Health approach.

In addition, the Lyon Office has developed leading expertise in designing interactive training programmes and self-learning modules to strengthen the skills and knowledge of frontline health workers and professionals in emergency preparedness, readiness and response. Countries, organizations and health professionals can build their own training programmes and learn from and collaborate with each other by accessing the Health Security Learning Platform (HSLP) hosted by the Lyon Office, which offers a rich pool of training resources and learning tools. 

To prevent and mitigate the spread of disease during an outbreak, the Lyon Office guides countries and helps to build their capacities in applying a scientific, risk-based approach while organizing and monitoring mass gatherings and deciding health-related protocols and measures for international travellers and cross-border movement

The synergies the Lyon Office builds with the rich metropolitan health ecosystem and, tomorrow, with the WHO Academy that will host it, are crucial to better prepare countries and populations for the health risks they face.

The future of global health security rests on a far greater commitment to and investment in emergency preparedness and readiness. With the essential and long-lasting support of several technical and financial partners and the steadfast support of the French government and the Lyon Metropole, the WHO Lyon Office is determined to continue helping countries to develop their preparedness and response capacities for all hazards.

 

Sourced from WHO

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