The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Public Health Agency of Canada, and the Ministry of Health of the United Mexican States today agreed to strengthen cross-border coordination and cooperation in the surveillance, prevention, and control of infectious diseases for the protection of the health, well-being, and quality of life of their peoples.
The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), signed by HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt, Canadian Minister of Health Tony Clement, and Mexican Secretary of Health José Ángel Córdova Villalobos, commits the three countries to assist one another during a public health emergency, whenever possible, and sets forth examples of the types of aid the three countries may provide to and accept from one another during a public health emergency.
"The health of our three nations relies upon our cooperation with and assistance to each other in times of need," Secretary Leavitt said. "As North American neighbors, we owe it to our citizens to work together whenever possible to minimize the spread and impact of an infectious disease outbreak or other public health emergency that may affect our nations."
"International collaboration is important in protecting the health security of our citizens, and those of the international community," Minister Clement said. "Threats to public health and safety transcend borders and this agreement represents a meaningful step forward in improving our nations' readiness to deal with these threats."
"The signing of this memorandum reflects a true cooperative intention from our nations to join forces during exceptional public health emergencies of international concern, and may be used as a model for other countries and regions of the world," said Secretary Córdova Villalobos. "In working together to consolidate this effort, I am sure that we will find numerous opportunities to keep growing together as a region."
As outlined in the MOU, all three countries agree to cooperate to improve their public health emergency preparedness and response efforts in activities such as border health, laboratory testing, diagnosis and treatment, epidemiological investigation, and the control of infectious diseases. The MOU also commits all three countries to strengthen their operating procedures and processes for the sharing of laboratory information before and during an emergency; to continue the technical review and the sharing of assay methods, reagents and laboratory results; and to participate in trilateral or bilateral exercises to assess and strengthen public health emergency response plans.
In addition the agreement directs all three countries to develop and implement protocols to share:
- Health care and public health personnel;
- Medical products approved by each country's relevant regulatory agency and contained within each country's National Stockpile ("Medical Products");
- Non-pharmaceutical supplies and goods not regulated by a country's relevant regulatory agency, but contained within the country's National Stockpile ("Supplies and Goods"); and
- Sharing specimens and reagents with each country's national reference laboratories (as well as with relevant international health bodies).