Vision of a strong global health community

To address evolving health challenges and emerging threats — while improving public health capacity around the world—a global health community was needed. Jeffrey Koplan was often asked by visiting international public health leaders, during his time as Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, how to create something similar in their own countries. Thousands of miles away, his colleague, Pekka Puska, the Director General of Finland’s National Institute of Public Health and Welfare was having the same experience. One night over dinner, the two friends hatched a plan to create an association dedicated to linking and supporting NPHIs. The concept of a global health community was realized. And the rest, as they say, was history.

In October 2002, thirty directors met in Bellagio, Italy. The journey was different for each director, but they all shared the same vision. They knew firsthand how strong public health institutes helped their own countries and how sharing information multiplied their efforts. Similar to Pekka Puska and Jeff Koplan, many of these directors received questions from neighboring countries about establishing their own version of a CDC to improve the well-being of the communities they serve. The decision was made. They would work together, to strengthen public health infrastructure and capacity at the regional and global levels, including countries that had less developed institutes or no institute at all.

In 2006, 39 founding members formally launched IANPHI – chartered with a $20 million, five-year grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation through Emory University (where Koplan is now Vice President for Global Health).

In addition to international benchmarks and activities, IANPHI’s 108 members have developed strong regional networks and peer-to-peer partnerships. With support from IANPHI and local leadership, these networks in Africa, Europe, and South America provide resources for NPHIs in each region to learn from each other’s experiences, build capacity, and collaborate to respond to public health challenges.