Global Open Consultation for Innovative Personal Protective Equipment

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is worn as part of an overall infection prevention strategy to protect the health worker from acquiring infection while providing services to patients infected Ebola and related haemorrhagic viruses. A preliminary published report by WHO stated that during the 2014-2016 Ebola virus epidemic in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, health workers were between 21 and 32 times more likely to be infected with Ebola than people in the general adult population. While PPE use or failures could not be linked to transmission of infection, challenges in training, sustained training and other human factors suggested that improved PPE characteristics and design and training along with other infection prevention strategies can reduce the occupational risk for developing infections.

WHO has, since the height of the 2014 Ebola epidemic, convened a series of expert consultations and workshops to address urgent requests for advice on appropriate PPE use. Over 150 participants have engaged in the consultations and workshops comprising healthcare professionals from Ebola affected countries, international partner organizations, including CDC, DFID, ECDC, MSF and USAID and many others; besides, normative experts specialized in international (ISO), regional (EB) and national (AAMI, ASTM, JIS) standards, innovators from the academic sectors and from designers and biomedical and materials engineers as well as established personal protective equipment industry representatives. Other key engagement has been the healthcare workers in care units and in the communities who put their lives at risk while working under stifling heat and stressful conditions. Stakeholders’ input is critical going forward to develop a PPE fit-for-purpose that keeps healthcare workers on the frontline safe and comfortable as a part of the overall infection prevention control strategy.

WHO has responded to the needs by producing a rapid advice guidance for PPE while providing health services during Ebola and related viral haemorrhagic fever outbreaks (2014). A workshop in 2015 brought together healthcare professionals, Ebola virus experts, logisticians, procurements specialists, community workers, PPE industry, designers and innovators to examine types of PPE available on the market and new innovative PPE designs. This led to the formation of WHO Advisory Committee for Innovative PPE in 2016. 

The members of the committee have drafted the preliminary Preferred Product Characteristics (PPC) document for PPE for the healthcare workers at the frontline for consultation. These characteristics apply to reviewing and modifying current PPE on the market as well as designing an innovative PPE system, where all elements are compatible, to ensure safety of the health care worker and patients, that considers ergonomic design, reduce heat stress, increase visibility and communication and other factors in order to provide better quality health care services to the population in need.

Released by the World Health Organization. Click here for source.