Q and A with Nataliya Nizova, Director General of Public Health Center, Ukraine

 Professor Nataliya Nizova is the author of more than 500 scientific studies and a regular participant in European and international discussions on public health and disease prevention. She has represented Ukraine as part of the official delegation at the highest-level forums including the UN General Assembly (2011), Assembly of the WHO (2013), and Global Fund Board meetings (2010-2014). Since 2000, Professor Nizova has been regular participant of international congresses and meetings focused on HIV/AIDS and TB. She became the director of Ukraine's Public Health Center (PHC) in 2016. 

PHC hosted the IANPHI European Directors Meeting in Kiev, Ukraine on April 19-20, 2017. Learn More >>

What were the biggest challenges in past months, and how have you overcome them?

[NN:] The causes of local health problems are constantly changing. The public health system must adapt to these modifications and be prepared to respond to major threats and risks for public health.

The Ukraine Ministry of Health eliminated the administrative and financial vertical structure in order to be more agile in addressing evolving health threats like Ebola, dengue, avian influenza, and Zika virus. The Ministry of Health designed a public health system based on the principle of subsidiarity so that critical matters are handled by the smallest, lowest or least centralized competent authority and only the remaining functions and functions related to national priorities are managed on a national level.

What are the key factors affecting public health in Ukraine? What will be the priorities for PHC in coming years?

[NN:] The biggest factors affecting public health in Ukraine are the substantial burden of non-communicable diseases, low vaccination levels, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, lack of lab capacity, and blood safety. PHC’s priorities are intended to address these factors. We aim to ensure that we have strong prevention programs including scaling up immunization programs, screening for early detection of cancer risks, and overcoming challenges in the control of communicable diseases like HIV and TB. PHC also plans to implement effective communication policies aimed at the general population for the promotion of a healthy lifestyle. PHC will participate in shaping and strengthening the public health system at the national and regional levels, especially via the optimization of regional laboratory capacity. 

PHC Public Health Priorities
The substantial burden of NCDs in Ukraine. Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) cause more than two-thirds of the total morbidity and about 86% of deaths in Ukraine. 

The critical low level of vaccination coverage. Since 2008, vaccination coverage of children in Ukraine has drastically decreased.

HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. Ukraine remains a country with a high level of HIV infection prevalence and one of the five countries with the highest morbidity of patients with multiple-drug-resistant tuberculosis in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

Lack of capacity of existing biological security systems to respond to modern challenges. Existing laboratory facilities are not efficient in identifying and responding to new dangerous infectious diseases or natural or genetically modified pathogenic microorganisms and viruses.

Blood safety. Characterized by a lack of critical support such as financial, technical and human resources, citizens have limited access to high-quality and safe blood components in the required amount.

How do you think the IANPHI network can support your activities?

[NN:] With support from IANPHI and by learning from the experiences of IANPHI member institutes, we will be able to develop comprehensive legislation for a robust public health framework as well as learn and adapt best practices with regard to building human resources capacity.

How will the establishment of PHC affect Ukraine?

[NN:] Under the Ministry of Health of Ukraine, there are a number of public institutions involved in the execution of core functions of public health. However, none of the existing institutions were performing analytical and organizational functions such as policy development and strategic management of the public health sector including the coordination of government stakeholders. Moreover, the existing structure was not implementing complex prevention for diseases of highest burden. We needed a clear and transparent system for reporting and acting on the results of program and project implementation. 

The Public Health Center of Ukraine was created by merging existing agencies to address these needs. PHC was strategically designed to align and work collaboratively with the other existing research institutes.

What are the biggest challenges for the institute for the year to come?

[NN:] As many other nascent public health institutes find, our immediate challenges include overcoming legal and structural barriers to improving the country’s public health infrastructure, designing the legal framework for the public health infrastructure, increasing staff, and developing a comprehensive system for epidemiologic surveillance of non-communicable diseases.

Additional Resources

Public Health Center, Ukraine

IANPHI European Directors Meeting 2017