MMWR reports: Six-month pilot efforts in Uganda, Vietnam brought measurable gains, pinpointed challenges
Prompted by the emergence of new public health threats as well as the return of old ones in an era of unprecedented international trade and travel, the 2005 International Health Regulations established universal standards and systems to control infectious outbreaks worldwide. But, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Tom Frieden noted this morning, seven years later, fewer than one in five countries reported meeting IHR requirements.
The CDC responded last year by planning two quick and intensive collaborative efforts to determine how rapidly and effectively countries’ capacities to identify, communicate, respond to and prevent public health threats could be developed. The results, in this week’s CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, showed that laboratories, emergency operations, communication and surveillance systems were enhanced in six months to respond more quickly and comprehensively to public health threats. The results, Frieden said, can serve as a model for other countries,
While putting existing technologies, including text messaging, to new use, the projects also relied in part on health infrastructures established through previous responses to infectious diseases. In Uganda, a PEPFAR-supported transportation network set up for early infant HIV diagnosis laid the foundation for faster diagnosis of drug-resistant tuberculosis and other diseases. In Vietnam, the Ministry of Health’s electronic communicable disease system was updated with CDC software built for places with limited technical support staff. Both projects included training and mentoring components.
While calling the results of the two projects “exciting,” Frieden added, “Overall we are woefully behind.”
He looked ahead warily to mass gatherings that will be brought together by the Lunar New Year which begins this weekend, and the upcoming Sochi Winter Olympics which begin next week, and repeated a warning: “We are all connected by the food we eat, the air we breathe and the water we drink. Disease anywhere is disease everywhere.”