The World Health Organization (WHO) has established a system of collaborating centers known as the Radiation Emergency Medical Preparedness and Assistance Network (REMPAN) to promote radiation emergency medical preparedness, assistance, and advice to countries in cases of overexposure of populations from any source of radiation. This network consists of 13 specialized institutions located in 10 countries. Within the REMPAN there are three separate but linked activities. The first is aimed at strengthening radiation emergency medical preparedness and assistance to treat and monitor acutely exposed individuals. The second activity is directed toward improving public health advice to mitigate long-term effects of exposure to low and protracted doses that might accrue in populations living in the affected territories. This involves giving advice on protecting public health, e.g., iodine prophylaxis, psychosocial risks associated with countermeasures, and public information strategies. In addition, the REMPAN develops activities aimed at improving long-term follow-up studies and preparedness for epidemiologic investigations in territories contaminated by radionuclides from a nuclear accident. The WHO's response in a radiation emergency depends on the type of accident and its time phase. This includes a wide range of actions from studying the situation to providing medical and public health assistance through the network of collaborating centers and relevant institutions within the REMPAN. The process of creating a reliable international system for radiation emergency medical preparedness and assistance has not yet been completed. Deficiencies in this system are outlined in this paper to attract the attention of specialists in the field of radiation protection and potential donors of the WHO program.
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