Reviewing essential public health functions in the Eastern Mediterranean Region post COVID-19 pandemic: a foundation for system resilience

Olaa Mohamed-Ahmed*, Hala Aboutaleb, Samia Latif, Hannah L. Watson, Rachel Handley, Emily Humphreys, Fethiye Gulin Gedik, Joia De Sa, Yu Zhang, Tazeem Bhatia, Osman Dar, Sohel Saikat, Neil Squires, Awad Mataria

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


The COVID-19 pandemic exposed vulnerabilities in many health systems worldwide with profound implications for health and society. The public health challenges experienced during the pandemic have highlighted the importance of resilient health systems, that can adapt and transform to meet the population’s evolving health needs. Essential public health functions (EPHFs) offer a holistic, integrated and sustainable approach to public health by contributing to achieving several health priorities and goals. In recent years, there has been a focused effort to conceptualise and define the EPHFs. In this paper, we describe the collaborative approach undertaken by the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region (EMR) and UK Health Security Agency and present the findings and results of the revised EPHFs, in view of lessons learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic and the current priorities for countries across the EMR. This included conducting a desktop review, a gap and bottleneck analysis and stakeholder consultation to arrive at the revised EPHF model including four enablers and nine core functions, including a new function: public health services. The EPHFs will offer countries a complementary and synergistic approach to strengthen health systems and public health capacities and contribute to the region’s ability to effectively respond to future health challenges and emergencies. By focusing on the EPHFs, countries can work towards ensuring health security as an integral goal for the health system besides universal health coverage, thus strengthening and building more resilient and equitable health systems.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere013782
JournalBMJ Global Health
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 28 Mar 2024

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© World Health Organization 2024.


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