Strengthening the Relationship between WHO and IANPHI: IANPHI President's Letter for February 2021


Dear IANPHI colleagues,

I hope that despite ongoing challenges, your start to 2021 has been a good one. It certainly has been for IANPHI. 

While the COVID-19 situation remains incredibly serious, there are reasons to feel hopeful. The first analyses of real-world data from COVID-19 vaccination programmes have been published showing very encouraging results with high levels of protection and reduced hospitalisations and deaths as well as decreased transmission. We are also seeing more people around the world receive their vaccine and it was fantastic to see the first doses of vaccine delivered as part of Covax, the vaccine sharing scheme, which provided 600,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Ghana. 

We have much work to do to ensure that every country and all communities can access the vaccine and this should be a priority the world over, but these positive developments are so welcome.

Earlier this month we met with WHO Deputy Director General Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab and her team to discuss how to strengthen the relationship between WHO and IANPHI. We discussed the need to bring both the assets of IANPHI and WHO together, especially to strengthen coordination in health emergencies. It was decided that a small working group be established to work towards completing the necessary documentation for IANPHI to enter formal official relations with WHO. The documentation will be made ready by July for application to the WHO Executive Board next January. This will give IANPHI a voice in the meetings of the governing bodies of WHO and a seat in the room for high level events. The working group would also look at ways to operationalise collaboration between IANPHI and WHO without delay. The immediate priority, linked to the COVID-19 pandemic, would be on building back better, and building back fairer. This working group has already met twice and I will of course continue to update you on their progress.

I was also invited to speak at the G7 Health and Development Working Group this month to provide reflections on international public health partnerships and networks. I emphasised the importance of G7 nations investing in and providing leadership through their NPHIs in global health through their membership of IANPHI. In particular I highlighted IANPHI’s mission as a global network is to collectively build public health capacity and capabilities by connecting, developing and strengthening national public health institutes worldwide.

We also held our Executive Board (EB) meeting this month. The EB has been requested to appoint five Foundation Board of Trustees members for this calendar year 2021 and a new Treasurer for a three year term. I will inform you of the outcome next month. In addition to the WHO meeting I have already mentioned, we discussed finalising the IANPHI Strategic Vision, the latest version of which, with comments integrated following the IANPHI Annual Meeting, has been sent to the drafting group and EB members for final comment. We will then share with our external partners in the final phase of consultation. We plan to publish it in April, following approval at the next EB meeting. We also agreed the need to refresh and revitalise our IANPHI Communications Strategy. This is key to making IANPHI more visible and strengthening our global voice. I will say more on this next month.

With best wishes,

Duncan Selbie

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