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Strategies to Strengthen National Public Health Institutes in Africa

Participants at the African Health Leaders on NPHIs in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

The Africa centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) convened an African leaders’ meeting from 26 - 28 February 2018 in Addis Ababa to discuss strategies to strengthen National Public Health Institutes in Africa.

Improved functioning of NPHIs will enhance the overall effectiveness of the Africa CDCs’ capacity as well as key partners to respond to public health threats in Africa. Strengthened NPHIs will not only leverage existing healthcare assets in the African sub-regions, but also ensure better coordination, leadership, and management of public health activities and enhance prevention, detection, and response to public health threats.

The objectives of the meeting were: to review and adopt a continental Africa CDC Framework for the establishment of NPHIs, to review, collate and refine the proposed Africa CDC NPHI Developmental Scorecard and stage-development tool, and strengthen the link between Africa’s NPHIs and the Africa CDC Regional Collaborating Centres.

During the meeting, a draft framework for establishing NPHIs was presented as well as a scorecard for assessing NPHI capacity to carry out the essential public health functions. Tools were also created for developing and strengthening NPHIs.

The meeting discussed health as affecting economic, social and security development. Sighting the example of the Ebola outbreak and its effects on West Africa in 2014/2015. As discussed in the meeting, Africa currently faces the triple burden of communicable and non-communicable diseases (NCDs), and injury and trauma. Challenges resulting from outbreaks such as Yellow fever, Cholera, natural disasters as a result of climate change and conflict still affect the continent adversely and continue to pose threats.

With a strong technical coordination from the Africa CDC, NPHIs will provide a platform to strengthen public health prevention, surveillance and interventions across the continent. It will build capacity to respond to public health emergencies including outbreaks, disasters and public health events. It will allow for lifesaving research on priority health problems in Africa and serve as a platform to share information and knowledge.

Key partnering organizations such as: Africa CDC HQ, Africa CDC RCCs, Africa Member States NPHIs, IANPHI Africa, WHO, US CDC, China CDC, USAID and AFENET participated in the meeting. AFENET was represented by the Executive Director, Dr. Chima Ohuabunwo. At the end of the meeting, participants drafted a work plan for finalization of framework, Scorecard, and stage development tool; and drafted a priority action plan to address urgent gaps.