Strengthen disease surveillance and outbreak response

The Institute for Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) is the vanguard for detecting, countering, and preventing infectious and non-communicable conditions in Bangladesh.  IANPHI's project at IEDCR - which ended in October 2012 -- pioneered a web-based national surveillance system that not only is improving the timeliness, completeness, and usefulness of infectious disease reporting but is also providing a platform for integrating and coordinating the various surveillance activities underway in the country.

With limited ability to get accurate data quickly from its 400-plus local disease reporting sites and integrate the data at the sub-national and national levels, Bangladesh sought support from IANPHI to expand its web-based disease surveillance system. A successful IANPHI-funded project deftly addressed that gap, enabling IEDCR to better track and respond to potential outbreaks and emerging threats that typically show up first in far-flung locations. As the government's mandated national institute for disease surveillance and outbreak response, IEDCR is committed to having a modern and world-class disease surveillance system, and Professor Mahmudur Rahman, IEDCR director, worked closed with the IANPHI team to define the steps toward more effective evidence-informed public health decision-making and action.

The project invested strategically in IEDCR to strengthen surveillance for communicable conditions by further developing a US CDC-funded web-based reporting system beyond the district- to national-level platform. The effort also provides a platform for a long-planned integrated approach to surveillance -- one that can be adapted nationwide for additional conditions and by additional users.  Now functional, the system is being incorporated into the national surveillance system of the government of Bangladesh and maintained by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Enhancements to the national disease surveillance system are already resulting in substantial integration and coordination of the various surveillance systems operating in Bangladesh, with benefits to other ministry offices and development partners.

The scope of surveillance was widened further with implementation of the Bangladesh Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS,B ) - the first mobile-phone-based health survey on health risk behaviors and preventive health practices related mainly to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and injury.  During February-May 2012, IEDCR researchers piloted the survey in Dhaka with IANPHI funding and technical assistance from NPHI partner, US CDC.  The resulting overview of the health and socio-demographic status of the city's population will pave the way for an expansion country-wide - to guide policy makers in promoting sound, science-based public health policies to limit death and disability from non-communicable conditions in Bangladesh.

Given IEDCR's strong leadership and capacity, substantive relationships with national and international partners, and potential for linkages with a new, IECDR-based Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Program (FELTP), this project is a model for countries in Asia and Africa with pressing needs to expand evidence-based decision making.