Advancing Public Health: Launching Sierra Leone’s National Public Health Agency

President Bio, in the middle (with grey tie), poses for photos with the Minister of Health, Dr. Austin Demby, and other top government officials. (Photos courtesy of Ministry of Health and Sanitation, Sierra Leone)

Sierra Leone has leaped into a new era of public health with the official establishment of the National Public Health Agency (NPHA). Launched by His Excellency Julius Maada Bio, the President of Sierra Leone, this monumental initiative is a response to crucial gaps identified in the nation’s public health infrastructure. To fortify its operations, a purposeful fundraising dinner introduced the Public Health Emergency Trust Fund (PHETF), strategically designed to secure financial contributions from both the government and the private sector.

The grand inauguration was held at the Bitumani National Conference Center in Freetown, with subsequent fundraising activities hosted at the Radisson Blu hotel on December 14, 2023, within the vibrant atmosphere of the Freetown International Conference Center.

Key Objectives of NPHA:

  • Strengthening the Public Health System: A comprehensive enhancement of Sierra Leone’s public health infrastructure.
  • Workforce Development: Fostering a skilled and motivated public health workforce.
  • Financial Coordination: Effective coordination of government and donor funding for global health security.

The NPHA envisions transforming into a Public Health Center of Excellence dedicated to advancing health security in Sierra Leone, through safeguarding the health of Sierra Leone through evidence-based, timely, and multidisciplinary prediction, prevention, detection, and response to public health threats and emergencies. The NPHA will ensure the following;

  • Coordinated and sustainable public health systems
  • Country ownership for public health initiatives
  • Improvement of essential public health functions
  • Prompt response to public health threats and emergencies
  • Capacity development of the public health workforce
  • Serving as a credible authority for public health
  • Global Collaboration

It aligns with the International Health Regulations (IHR) and the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA), with a focus on building local capacity to prevent, detect, and respond to Public Health Events of International Concern (PHEIC).

Some of the partners identified include; Africa CDC, WAHO, ECOWAS, WHO, and other global and regional initiatives.

The Case for Investment:

Investing in public health is not merely a strategic move but a crucial step for Sierra Leone’s socio-economic development. This investment lays the foundation for a resilient architecture, empowering the nation to predict, swiftly detect, characterize, and respond to public health threats and disease outbreaks. The NPHA’s strategic goals underscore the paramount importance of a robust public health infrastructure for the overall well-being and prosperity of the nation.

Minister of Health, Dr. Austin Demby, giving his speech at the launch of the National Public Health Agency. (Photos courtesy of Ministry of Health and Sanitation, Sierra Leone)
Minister of Health, Dr. Austin Demby, right, sat next to President Bio during the NPHA launch at Bintumani in Freetown. (Photos courtesy of Ministry of health and Sanitation, Sierra Leone)
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