Journal of Evidence-Based Medicine
Volume 11, Issue 3 Pages: 131-215 August 2018
Meeting public health needs in emergencies–World Health Organization guidelines
Susan L. Norris
First Published: 09 August 2018
The World Health Organization (WHO) is a leading source of trustworthy guidelines in public health, including in emergencies. In addition to standard guidelines produced in preparation for emergency response, WHO has processes and methods for issuing guidelines in the context of urgent public health need, including rapid advice guidelines (production time 2 to 3 months) and health emergency interim guidelines (days to weeks). There are numerous challenges to producing guidelines in response to an emergency in addition to the compressed timeline which necessitates truncating or modifying standard processes. There is frequently a lack of scientific data on the disease or situation at hand, especially early in the event timeline. Resources are limited, particularly the availability of WHO staff and external experts, and disease and emergency response experts may lack knowledge and experience in developing guidelines. Finally, the rapid production of new information and the resultant short shelf‐life of recommendations pose a significant challenge to keeping guidelines up to date. In order to better meet end‐users’ needs, WHO must anticipate areas of uncertainty in emergency response and proactively develop relevant guidelines, explore optimal ways of communicating gaps in knowledge in the field to guideline developers, and promote and participate in research on the sources of bias in guideline development within compressed timeframes.