Sierra Leone: Creating a National Public Health Institute

An excitement-filled conference room serves as host to a critical moment in Sierra Leone's health crisis, as global and in-country public health leaders partner to embark on a journey in saving lives through the creation of a strong national public health institute. The question on everyone's lips: "How can we design a strong blueprint that will serve to alleviate the country's major health crises?" 

This timely meeting comes just after the recent news of emerging Ebola cases in the country, happening only days after celebrations began for Sierra Leone entering the 42-day countdown to declaring the country Ebola-free (watch the video from International Medical Corps at the end of this post). 

“The Ebola epidemic devastated the country of Sierra Leone, but it helped heighten the country’s awareness of health issues among its people," said John Hoover, the ambassador of the United States to Sierra Leone. "A national public health agency focused on the health of the people, building off the recent experience with Ebola response will serve to strengthen all public health functions in the country.” 

IANPHI facilitated discussion and offered technical expertise in a two-day meeting on September 7-8. Together with partners from its membership including the U.S. CDCPublic Health England and the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention, IANPHI joined leaders from Sierra Leone's Ministry of Health, and in-country health partners in the effort to lay a foundation for a strong national public health institute. The meeting was facilitated by Dr. Sue Binder, senior advisor for public health practice at the IANPHI U.S. Office.

In April, Sierra Leone President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma was welcomed to the U.S. White House by President Barack Obama. Following this visit, President Koroma wrote to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) requesting the re-establishment of a USAID mission in Sierra Leone. He also wrote to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (U.S. CDC) requesting assistance in establishing a national public health institute with disease control and prevention, and to President Obama to express his sincere gratitude for his support.

"I owe you a debt of gratitude for the assurances which you gave that the United States will continue to partner with us in the fight against Ebola and preventing future epidemics, ...(and) support (in) our transition and recovery efforts with a view to achieve long-term progress and prosperity," he wrote. "We anticipate that through your country's continued assistance and support, we will be able to build a robust public health care delivery system that will be responsive to the needs of our people." 

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