Develop core functions to expand from research institute to NPHI

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In Ethiopia, the alignment of political will, strong institute leadership, and potential donor resources provide a unique opportunity for the growth and development of a fully functioning NPHI. The Ethiopian Health & Nutrition Institute (EHNRI) was established in 1995 to strengthen health research capacity in Ethiopia. Until recently, its public health functions related solely to public health research and reference laboratory services. However, its mandate has broadened in recent years to include other public health activities, such as laboratory-based HIV/AIDS surveillance. More recently, the Minister of Health announced his intention to develop EHNRI into a comprehensive NPHI, including responsibility for coordinating the government’s response to emergencies. 

Ethiopia’s Minister of Health has made it a top priority to transform the Ethiopian Health and Nutrition Research Institute (EHNRI) from a research center into a comprehensive national public health institute. 

A key priority identified during the country’s strategic planning process, funded by IANPHI, is capacity for preparedness and strategic response to public health threats and emergencies, including infectious disease outbreaks, toxic exposures, and natural disasters. Ethiopia lacks a comprehensive emergency preparedness plan for its 75 million citizens. In addition, a lack of critical laboratory equipment has constrained Ethiopia’s ability to identify and respond to public health threats from water, food, and toxins. 

IANPHI is helping EHNRI devise plans to fulfill this new mandate and develop the critical capacities needed to prepare for, detect, and respond to public health crises. Key among these activities are to:

• Strengthen early warning and preparedness systems
• Build comprehensive capacity for investigation and response at all levels
• Improve communication between laboratory and epidemiology units
• Develop partnerships with other agencies critical to emergency preparedness and response

Through these efforts, IANPHI funds will spearhead development of the strong and sustainable public health system needed to respond to public health emergencies and provide the long-term capacity to support a healthy populations and a strong national economy.

IANPHI’s project partners and collaborators include WHO, which has offered expertise on emergency response preparedness planning; the U.S. CDC, which has based its FELTP at EHNRI and is providing technical assistance on emergency preparedness; and the Association of Public Health Laboratories, which is actively involved in strengthening laboratory components. IANPHI’s member from Norway has exprssed interest in providing technical assistance. Perkins+Will, a U.S.-based architectural firm, is designing the new emergency operations center.