IANPHI President's Letter for September 2021


Dear everyone,

I hope this finds you safe and well.

Following the launch in May of our new strategy, the Executive Board is working on a plan for its implementation for agreement at the General Assembly in December. This will be held virtually on 1-3 December, hosted by Fiocruz, and it would be great if you could save these dates. We have engaged Sadaf Lynes, who some of you will know, to develop the plan and she will be listening hard to your views and feedback.

Key to this is our relationship with the World Health Organization. This week Juliette Fugier from the Paris secretariat, David Heymann and I spent time with WHO colleagues in Geneva working on how to have IANPHI recognised as a formal partner of the WHO so we can be present and influence at the highest levels. This was very productive with a way forward agreed on WHO formal recognition, beginning with an invitation to the World Health Assembly in November. The WHO places great emphasis on every country having a strong national public health institute (NPHIs) as the focal point for the WHO essential public health functions and this agreement marks an exciting new phase for IANPHI. Work now begins on a memorandum of understanding that sets out the practical actions we are going to focus on together and of course these will be reflected in Sadaf’s work.

I am sure that all will have heard the announcement that the WHO Hub for Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence was inaugurated in Berlin earlier this month in partnership with the Robert Koch Institute. And of extra good news is that Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, director of the Nigeria CDC, will be the Hub founding director, an appointment universally welcomed. IANPHI will support Chikwe in every possible way as he takes on this critical new responsibility.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have also announced plans for a Grand Challenge to be launched later this year seeking proposals from NPHIs, or in-country equivalent institutions, to strengthen the integration of disease surveillance systems. IANPHI hopes to offer practical assistance to NPHIs who wish to make an application, more on this to follow.

Our Executive Board met on 31 August and we discussed, amongst other matters, the potential role of IANPHI in the WHO Global Strategic Preparedness Network and agreed an excellent position paper on climate change, authored on our behalf by Santé Publique France with the IANPHI Climate Change Working Group in readiness for COP26. The secretariat will share this once the final edits have been made.

Definitely worth reading is a paper recently published in the British Medical Journal co-authored by IANPHI, WHO and PHE, Building the evidence base for global health policy: the need to strengthen institutional networks, geographical representation and global collaboration. It argues that as health systems respond to and recover from COVID-19, countries should establish, reconfigure and strengthen NPHIs and give greater prominence with adequate investment to public health in national policy and global agendas. It makes clear the value of drawing on the whole IANPHI network, and of ensuring greater equity of participation and the broader benefits from such collaborations in strengthening implementation of the WHO essential public health functions.

Also worth highlighting is the Social Media Toolkit for Healthcare Practitioners, hosted on the WHO Digital Health and Innovation pages. The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine recently found that being exposed to health misinformation can reduce vaccine uptake by up to 6%. Centred around three core vaccine confidence messages, Vaccine Safety, Vaccine Development and Vaccine Reducing Risk of Sickness, the toolkit provides simple, practical information on sharing trusted sources of information; ready-to-go assets to share on social media accounts; and support to create content.

There is so much to be proud of through the formidable work of public health colleagues across the world. Do keep sharing these and thank you for everything that you are doing to protect and improve the health of your people.

With best wishes,

Duncan

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