SIERRA LEONE: Creating a National Public Health Institute

(IANPHI) Freetown, Sierra Leone, September 7-8, 2015 – An excitement-filled conference room serves as host to a critical moment in Sierra Leone's health crisis, as global and in-country public health leaders partner to embark on a journey in saving lives through the creation of a strong national public health institute. 

The question on everyone's lips: "How can we design a strong blueprint that will serve to alleviate the country's major health crises?" 

This timely meeting comes just after the recent news of emerging Ebola cases in the country, happening only days after celebrations began for Sierra Leone entering the 42 day count-down to declaring the country Ebola free. 

(Video Caption: Dancing and Singing for Last Ebola Patient in Sierra Leone via

John Hoover, the US Ambassador to Sierra Leone stated that,

“The Ebola epidemic devastated the country of Sierra Leone, but it helped heighten the country’s awareness of health issues among its people.  A national public health agency focused on the health of the people, building off the recent experience with Ebola response will serve to strengthen all public health functions in the country.” 

In April, Sierra Leone President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma was welcomed to the United States White House by U.S. President Barack Obama.

Following this visit, President Koroma wrote to the USAID requesting the re-establishment of a USAID mission in Sierra Leone. He also wrote the U.S. CDC requesting assistance in establishing a national public health institute with disease control and prevention, and to President Obama to express his sincere gratitude for support, 

"I owe you a debt of gratitude for the assurances which you gave that the United States will continue to partner with us in the fight against Ebola and preventing future epidemics, ...(and) support (in) our transition and recovery efforts with a view to achieve long-term progress and prosperity." 

"We anticipate that through your country's continued assistance and support, we will be able to build a robust public health care delivery system that will be responsive to the needs of our people." 

Facilitating discussion and offering technical expertise, IANPHI, with partners from IANPHI's membership including the U.S. CDC, Public Health England (PHE) and China CDC, joined leaders from Sierra Leone's Ministry of Health, and in-country health partners in the effort to lay a foundation for a strong national public health institute.

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(Photo Caption: small group discussions during the two-day meeting) 

The meeting was facilitated by Dr. Sue Binder of the International Association of National Public Health Institutes.

"...we will be able to build a robust public health care delivery system that will be responsive to the needs of our people." - Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, President of Sierra Leone

Every country needs a national public health institute that can save lives by quickly and effectively responding to health threats.

NPHIs Give Countries

• A focal point for developing and strengthening their national public health system

• Increased technical capacity to better respond to major causes of disease, death and disability

• Skills to deliver public health programs for HIV/AIDS, TB, malaria, vaccine-preventable diseases and chronic diseases

• A long-term strategic plan for an evidence-based, sustainable system that addresses major public health challenges

• A strategic approach to meeting the requirements of the International Health Regulations and national and regional regulations, and increased capacity to respond decisively to public health threats and opportunities, including avian influenza, SARS and other emerging infections

• A career home for a cadre of locally educated public health experts: the workforce needed to prevent and control disease outbreaks

• Evidence-informed policy development and public health program execution