A recent draft released by the World Health Organization explained the new global strategy to address the gaps in infection prevention and control (IPC) programs that became apparent after the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. The draft also highlighted strategies to ease the burden of multidrug-resistant microbial infections in a healthcare setting.
The global outbreaks of viruses such as the Ebola virus, Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), and severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) have demonstrated the devastating impact of rapidly transmitting viruses and highlighted the shortcomings of the IPC measures currently followed worldwide. The increase in antimicrobial resistance and the growing number of healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) from drug-resistant bacteria further emphasize the need for better IPC strategies. Additionally, the lack of access to clean water, hygiene, and sanitation and improper waste disposal methods in health care facilities, especially in low and middle-income countries, need to be addressed for a comprehensive approach to IPC.
The 75th World Health Assembly, held in May 2022 in Geneva, Switzerland, proposed and adopted a resolution to improve IPC on all levels, from national to local facilities, and develop a global actional plan and a framework to monitor the implementation of the new strategy.
Vision and objectives
The global strategy on infection prevention and control states that the WHO’s vision is to ensure that all individuals providing or accessing healthcare are protected from associated infections by 2030. The target audience of the draft includes governments and political leaders at global and national levels, as well as healthcare workers, scientific research and educational institutes, donors, key stakeholders, local communities, and communication and media organizations and individuals.
The global strategy lists three major objectives — the prevention of infections in health care, action to ensure the implementation of IPC programs, and coordination between IPC activities and other healthcare-related sectors. Prevention of infections comprises improving healthcare quality by reducing the infections from drug and antimicrobial-resistant pathogens generally acquired in healthcare facilities. To ensure the implementation of IPC programs, the draft discussed involving political leaders and stakeholders and using legal and financial frameworks to reduce and prevent HAIs. The global strategy also proposed coordination between IPC activities and sectors such as public health emergencies, antimicrobial resistance monitoring, and universal health coverage.
The draft lists eight major directions through which the global strategy for IPC is to be implemented. The strategy calls for governments and policymakers to demonstrate a visible commitment to ensure that legal frameworks and accreditation systems are in place to enforce IPC programs and provide access to resources.
The IPC programs aim to establish at least the minimum IPC requirements in all countries to ensure primary and long-term care, to achieve all the IPC core recommendations eventually. This includes national action plans and behavioral interventions and preparing for disease outbreaks, natural disasters, humanitarian crises, and other public health emergencies at local and national levels.
The implementation of the IPC strategy also requires coordination between the IPC programs and other healthcare programs related to surveillance of antimicrobial resistance in pathogens, provision for clean water, sanitation, and hygiene, occupational health, vaccination, tuberculosis, human immunodeficiency virus, maternal and infant health, et cetera. Additionally, the integration of IPC measures at all health service levels is also required to achieve the objectives of the IPC programs.
An important part of global IPC strategy implementation is the education of healthcare workers using a comprehensive IPC curriculum and the training of IPC professionals on standards and practices. Providing IPC professionals with empowerment and opportunities to progress in career pathways, as well as the development of resources to educate patients are also necessary.
The other important areas for effectively implementing the IPC strategy include collecting and analyzing laboratory and surveillance data on diseases and infections and developing and implementing improvement plans formulated from the collected data. IPC advocacy and awareness campaigns through various modes of communication, identifying and facilitating research in IPC areas with research gaps, and collaboration and networking with other stakeholders and partners to share information and expertise are also some of the proposed directions to achieve the IPC objectives.