Established in 2006, CAPSCA is a voluntary cross-sectorial, multi-organizational collaboration programme managed by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) with support from the World Health Organization (WHO). It brings together international, regional, national and local organizations to combine efforts to improve preparedness planning and response to public health events that affect the aviation sector such as:
The growth of international traffic of passengers and goods has increased the risk of the spread of infectious diseases, therefore, protection of global health becomes even higher priority not only to airlines and airports in terms of the passenger, pilots and other personnel, but also to governments concerning their health, safety and security oversight responsibilities under the Chicago Convention and the International Health Regulations (IHR).
Apart from loss of lives, outbreaks of infectious diseases are estimated to cost the world $60 billion each year. Economists estimate that, in coming decades, pandemics will cause average annual economic losses of 0.7% of global GDP - a threat similar in scale to that estimated for climate change.
The most recent outbreaks (Ebola in 2018 and COVID-19 in 2019) have demonstrated the pivotal role of aviation in the effort to mitigate the spread of communicable diseases, its subsequent impact on the global public health and economy e.g. travel restrictions causing disruptions on the global trade, food and medical supply chain and tourism. This can only be achieved by adopting a multi-sectoral, multi-organizational approach.
The inadequate preparedness and the need for a coordinated global response (multi-sectorial, multi-organizational approach) were identified as the biggest challenges of the international community regarding the management of a public health event in aviation. The purpose of CAPSCA is to address these challenges by ensuring collaboration between the aviation and public health sectors; facilitating safe and economically viable air transport while contributing to public health protection.
To make this possible, ICAO partners with several UN agencies and international organizations to build capacity and increase preparedness to mitigate and manage the effects of public health events on civil aviation.
For example, ICAO assisted in building airport capacity to manage communicable diseases arriving on flights by presenting and providing guidelines at a conference hosted by the Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP). ICAO also assisted WHO in building State capacity to manage public health emergencies in aviation by participating in and facilitating ”Train the trainer” workshops in the Asia-Pacific (China) and East African (Zimbabwe) regions.
WHO and ICAO collaborated on vector control mapping and aircraft disinsection initiatives, which resulted in a review of WHO recommendations in July 2018 with WHO considering the use of the ICAO Risk Assessment and Disinsection Decision Making Tool (currently under development by ICAO) as a basis for further development and recommendations.
ICAO continues to work with its current partners on the implementation of the International Health Regulations (IHR) and ICAO Public Health related Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs), but will also expand collaboration to additional private organizations such as medical software developers and university research partners to mitigate the impact of public health events such as the international spread of diseases and to safeguard international air traffic.