Spark regional collaboration and capacity for laboratory-based disease detection

Globalization and expanding economic markets have swelled the number of international travelers throughout Asia. These factors, along with others such as continued population growth and limited access to health care, contribute to the rapid emergence and dissemination of infectious disease agents through this region. Recent examples include severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), avian influenza, and drug-resistant tuberculosis.

These outbreaks highlight the need for public health capacity to detect, assess, and contain the spread of infectious diseases. Surveillance, outbreak investigation, and laboratory capacity and infrastructure are also needed to fulfill requirements of international regulations to reduce health threats both within and across borders.

In Thailand, the National Institute of Health (NIH) is the country’s central public health reference laboratory, playing a key national role in prevention and control of infectious diseases. The institute also serves the resource-constrained neighboring countries of Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar, which have limited resources and capacity to conduct core public health functions.

In response to threats of emerging disease agents and cross-border spread of disease, NIH sought IANPHI funding to strengthen regional capacity for laboratory-based disease detection and response. Activities center on assessing needs for improved laboratory services in Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar and enhancing capacity through exchange of scientific staff and expertise and participation in external quality assurance programs. NIH is also enhancing its own capacity to become a regional reference laboratory and coordinating center.

The coordination, advocacy, and training provided by NIH will strengthen the capability of colleagues in lower-resource neighboring countries to perform essential and sustainable public health functions and ultimately improve the health of populations within their countries and across the region.

Learn more about Thailand’s NIH >>

“For more than two decades, NIH has functioned as Thailand’s central public health reference laboratory, playing a key role in infectious disease prevention and control. The institute also serves Thailand’s regional medical centers and public health institutions in limited-resource neighboring countries.” 
- Dr. Pathom Sawanpanyalert, Director and EB Member