Via the Globe and Mail, a very interesting opinion piece on the implications of WHO's new rules for reporting disease outbreaks: Infectious disease reporting: a bug in Canada's ear. Excerpt (re-paragraphed):
While the new rules are much needed, there are substantial obstacles many governments will face in implementing them.
Federal states face particular challenges: The constitutional powers necessary to implement the health regulations may not reside at the national level of government, and federal governments may not be able to obtain the co-operation of regional governments.
Canada learned this the hard way during the SARS crisis, when Ottawa did not have the authority to demand information from Ontario, yet was required to respond to WHO requests for information. The situation contributed to the costly (and possibly avoidable) travel advisory that was imposed on Toronto.
The SARS experience led to numerous public health reforms. And while much progress has been made, there is still uncertainty about key issues, such as the co-ordination of disease surveillance activities across the country and whether provinces are willing to transfer public health emergency information to the federal government.
Efforts to resolve these issues have taken more than a decade and been the focus of two auditor-general's reports. Now, time has run out. Ottawa is now expected to report possible public health emergencies, and tuberculosis cases could fall into this category. Failure to live up to these international commitments could lead to the spread of disease from Canada to more vulnerable countries.
In many respects, Canada has been a leader in public health. But the intergovernmental challenges it faces are very real. We recognize the many efforts that have been made to date, including the special health ministers' meeting on pandemic planning, the substantial money that Ottawa committed for this purpose in the 2006 budget and the ongoing efforts of federal and provincial public health officials.
But an extra political commitment is urgently needed to energize the federal-provincial process.
You can read a long, detailed news release about the WHO International Health Regulations here.