Campus News

November 4, 2010

IANPHI links science and action

The Emory Conference Center became a global village this week as top public health leaders from national public health institutes in nearly 50 countries gathered to exchange ideas, report progress, and gear up for new challenges in preparedness, surveillance and response.

The International Association of National Public Health Institutes (IANPHI) held its fifth annual meeting in Atlanta, and the first in the United States. The association is based in the Emory Global Health Institute, which jointly hosted the meeting along with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The theme of the meeting was “Linking Science and Action.”

IANPHI, which elected 11 new member nations at the meeting to bring its total to more than 80 nations, consists of CDC-like partner institutes that build relationships and support each other.

A significant theme of the meeting was a focus on non-communicable diseases in addition to communicable diseases. Non-communicable diseases now kill more people around the world than do communicable ones.

National support needed

Meeting highlights included a talk by CDC Director Tom Frieden, who emphasized the critical need for national support, both politically and financially, of national public health institutes and coordination with local governments and public health organizations.

Kevin DeCock, director of CDC’s new Center for Global Health, pointed out the vast changes in public health response over just a few decades. Rather than waiting to hear about a global response until the peak of a disease outbreak, now public health experts receive notice of emergencies almost immediately, allowing for a rapid response.

Rob Tauxe, deputy director of CDC’s Division of Foodborne, Bacterial and Mycotic Diseases, described the evolution of molecular surveillance methods for foodborne illnesses.

PulseNet, a system in place since 1996, has replaced reports about sporadic illnesses around the United States with a national database identifying previously undetected clusters of illnesses.

Now a developing system called PulseNet International will gradually improve foodborne disease prevention and detection around the world. When we understand the patterns of illnesses, said Tauxe, we are able to share expertise, respond more effectively, and coordinate efforts.

Global partnerships critical

Other sessions focused on better immunization policies, improved laboratory systems, and confronting the burden of injuries – including automobile injuries – in a changing world.

Haitian Minister of Health Alex Larsen could not make it to the meeting because of the outbreak of cholera in his country. Because the Haitian population is immunologically naïve to cholera, people are more vulnerable, but efforts to improve the water supply following the earthquake are gradually taking hold and will help prevent other diseases.

Disasters like the Haitian earthquake illustrate the critical need for strong national public health institutes, preparedness, surveillance, and a global network of partners who can assist in the response.

Public health leaders from four countries – Nigeria, Guinea-Bissau, Tanzania and Ethiopia – gave examples of successful IANPHI-funded projects. Despite extremely limited resources in many countries, Emory Global Health Institute Director Jeffrey Koplan pointed out, these countries have made extraordinary and concrete progress in improving public health infrastructure and in decreasing disease and death from challenging public health problems.

Guinea-Bissau, for example, which has been ravaged by wars and by a cholera epidemic, has completely revived its national public health institute with the assistance of IANPHI.

Nigeria has a high prevalence of HIV, TB, and HIV-TB co-infection, but with IANPHI grants leveraged by funds from other donors, Nigeria’s approach to reducing deaths from drug-resistant TB is attracting the attention of countries all over the world.

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