Establishing and Strengthening NPHIs in Southern Africa

Leaders from National Public Health Institutes (NPHIs) from southern African countries met in September 2019 in Livingstone, Zambia for a summit focused on the establishment and strengthening of NPHIs in the region.

Africa CDC RCC Meeting Group Photo

The event was hosted by the Africa Centers for Disease Control and the Southern Africa Regional Collaborating Center (RCC) in collaboration with the Zambia National Public Health Institute, the U.S. CDC, and IANPHI. Representatives from the NPHIs of Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe were in attendance, along with representatives from the host organizations.

In addition to establishing a common understanding of NPHIs and their core functions, much of the three-day meeting was dedicated to peer-to-peer exchange. Attendees shared their challenges, lessons learned, recommendations and strategies for the establishment and strengthening of NPHIs in the region.

The following consensus points were reached during the meeting:

  • NPHI development status: Regardless of an NPHI’s stage of development, NPHI strengthening is ongoing and requires concerted efforts and support.
  • Political will: There is global political will to establish NPHIs in every African country. Within the region, countries and heads of state need to be encouraged to establish an NPHI to focus on strengthening health security and implementation of the International Health Regulations (IHR).
  • Needs for NPHI development: Human and financial resources, political will, and partnerships are critical to the foundation of an NPHI. Once established, an NPHI requires infrastructure to support its functions. Many tools are available to support these efforts (i.e. NPHI Staged Development Tool, Africa CDC Framework for Development of National Public Health Institutes, IANPHI Best Practices), but more may be needed. Workforce development and sharing of best practices through exchange visits and peer-to-peer mentorship are seen as critical to this work.
  • Critical attributes or early actions of NPHIs: NPHIs should promote science-driven public health in alignment with national priorities and plans, while supporting global priorities, as well. NPHI visibility and credibility can be promoted through the identification of quick wins and provision of quality services.

Following this successful and productive meeting, interest was expressed in replicating this event in other regions. Visit the Africa CDC’s Regional Collaborating Centres website for more information.

This article was published in IANPHI Insider #4 (November 2019).

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