ICAO sets rules and regulations for its 191 Contracting States. These are published as Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) for international civil aviation. The SARPs concerning medical provisions are contained in Annex 1 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation. ICAO SARPs are minimum requirements to which Contracting States must abide unless they file a "difference" with ICAO, which is available to other States. If a State chooses not to apply ICAO Standards and instead imposes a lower national standard, another State may, if it wishes, prevent an aircraft operating to such reduced requirements from entering its own airspace. A State, however, may set higher (stricter) national standards than those of ICAO without any penalty.
The principal responsibilities of the Aviation Medicine Section are:
- monitoring the developments within the field of medicine and aviation medicine and adjusting the appropriate Annex 1 provisions as necessary to ensure they remain up-to-date;
- reviewing and maintaining current the Manual of Civil Aviation Medicine (Doc 8984), the Manual on Prevention of Problematic Use of Substances in the Aviation Workplace (Doc 9654) and the Manual on Laser Emitters and Flight Safety (Doc 9815);
- developing appropriate Standards and guidance material to ensure that the aviation community contributes to reducing the risk of transmitting communicable diseases by air;
- providing guidance to licensing authorities in Contracting States on medical standards; medical problems relevant to flight operations; the effect of working conditions on health; biological and psychological problems relating to passengers and crew; first aid and survival equipment, and, the medical aspects of accident investigation and prevention; and
- conducting and participating in regional seminars on aviation medicine, conducting ICAO educational sessions at international aviation medicine scientific meetings and presenting papers at such meetings.