2020 IANPHI Annual Meeting Summary: Renewing IANPHI’s Strategic Vision

At the virtual 2020 IANPHI Annual Meeting, two sessions were held to consult with members on the IANPHI Strategic Vision for 2021-2025. Cathy Morgan, director of strategy at Public Health England and coordinator of the initiative, presented how IANPHI’s dedicated strategic working group developed a new strategic vision for 2021-2025. 

From April to October 2020, a strategic working group began in-depth discussions on IANPHI’s mission, membership and services. The working group included representatives of IANPHI’s executive board, the four regional networks, the secretariat, the U.S. office and external partners. The draft strategic vision was prepared to be discussed with members and partners during the annual meeting. 

In the first session, members of the strategic working group detailed the five strategic priorities for IANPHI. These priorities were then grouped in two categories: priorities related to strengthening links between members and those related to strengthening the capacities of IANPHI members. 

  • Strategic Priority One: Strengthen the Professional Relationships Within IANPHI’s Unique Global Forum

Felix Rosenberg of Brazil's public health institute Fiocruz stressed that discussing critical public health issues within this unique global forum is one of the network’s most important values. Such a global forum allow to debate on public health leadership in equal terms. Felix Rosenberg highlighted the importance of combining NPHI’s biological advancements with their knowledge of social determinants of health. 

  • Strategic Priority Three: Engage, Support and Grow IANPHI’s Diverse and Unified Membership Base

As the newly re-elected chair of the Latin American and Caribbean network, Felix Rosenberg also discussed the importance of reinforcing IANPHI diverse and unified membership. Working at regional levels enables members to have a more equitable access to resources and to discuss critical issues through regional and territorial realities. In addition, bringing members from different regional networks together support members in broadening the scope of their functions to tackle common challenges within diverse contexts.

  • Strategic Priority Five: Build an Agile Association to Support its Members Through Change

IANPHI’s secretary general, Jean-Claude Desenclos, highlighted that IANPHI’s priority of the coming years will be to accompany its members through major changes in public health. Over nearly 15 years, IANPHI has seen its membership grow from 36 in 2006 to 110 in 2020. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has shed light on the adequacy of functions and attributes of national public health institutes (NPHIs) in their roles of health promotion and protection. IANPHI will enable members to discuss the remit of NPHIs and to learn more about their peers through digital tools. 

  • Strategic Priority Two: Harness the Collective Expertise of Members to Develop Public Health Capacity Globally

As vice-chair of the IANPHI-Africa network and director general of the National Public Health Institute of Burkina Faso, Hervé Hien presented the value of IANPHI support in NPHI capacity building. Citing the study visits he and his team made to Santé publique France and Belgium’s Sciensano in 2019, Hervé Hien highlighted the support to the institute’s creation. Moreover, these exchanges between IANPHI members exemplified the common characteristics amongst NPHIs around the world and the importance of sharing experiences amongst peers. 

  • Strategic Priority Four: Advocate in Support of NPHIs as Key Public Health Actors

Bjørn Iversen of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health highlighted that scientific independence has become a critical discussion for NPHIs and all levels of government across the world. Now more than ever, IANPHI will advocate for strengthened and scientifically independent NPHIs who are able to communicate the complexities of their work to political authorities at the most critical of times. For example, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health recently received an award for transparency and openness in its COVID-19 communication. The institute has been praised for publically communicating its differences of opinion with health authorities and contributing to developing the public’s knowledge and trust in scientific advice. 

A second session during the 2020 IANPHI Annual Meeting was dedicated to comments from members regarding the draft IANPHI Strategic Vision 2021-2025. As part of its consultations with members before publication, IANPHI welcomed the opportunity to receive feedback on its strategic vision from its members. During the meeting, members discussed the following comments: 

  • Scientific Independence

IANPHI members discussed the importance of advocating for the scientific independence of NPHIs whilst maintaining strong working relationships with national authorities for effective evidence-based policies. The COVID-19 response has highlighted the need to bridge politics and science in the midst of developing new data and knowledge. A number of members encouraged IANPHI to develop a best practice guide on how NPHIs communicated evolving scientific knowledge to political authorities while under pressure. 

  • Developing a Broad Skill Set Within NPHIs

Members expressed the importance of incorporating diverse disciplines into NPHIs to enhance institutes’ impacts on population’s health. IANPHI partners such as the associations of public health schools and programs, like the Association of Schools of Public Health in the European Region (ASPHER), have a key role to play in building workforce capacity to support public health actions. 

  • Role of NPHIs in Tackling Health Inequalities

Many IANPHI members stressed the growing importance for NPHIs to engage actively with this topic, in particular by supporting whole-of-government (or HiAP – Health in All Policy) to respond to social and territorial inequalities. The development of good practices and training resources to address inequalities was supported by a large number of members. 

  • Thematic Working Groups

Health inequalities and public health workforce needs were put forward by members as examples of topic-specific working groups. These platforms would unite members across regional networks to engage in-depth discussions. Experts from other sectors could also be invited to participate in working groups to broaden the perspectives and experiences shared. 

  • International Collaboration

Recognizing the significance of NPHIs on the global stage, a number of members suggested that IANPHI share its strategic vision with international actors and networks, including: the InterAction Council of former heads of state, the G20 presidency and the United Nations. IANPHI’s partners at the WHO Health Emergency Programme also informed members that the November 2020 World Health Assembly meeting adopted a resolution that calls on Member States “to encourage, promote and share information about strategic partnerships and technical collaboration for preparedness, including those between relevant international, regional and national institutions, in particular national public health institutes, including through the WHO Global Strategic Preparedness Network (GSPN)". 

  • From a Strategic Vision to Action

A number of IANPHI members highlighted the importance of developing an action plan to ensure that IANPHI, its members and partners can implement the new strategic vision over the next five years. Developing partnerships with IANPHI members and other institutions may be important implementation factors, as well as strengthening secretariat capacity. 

The strategic working group will integrate these comments into a final draft of the strategic vision. In January, IANPHI will share this draft with key partners to ensure that visions for strengthening public health can align. Publication of the new IANPHI Strategic Vision is planned for March 2021. Members will be encouraged to share the document widely with their partners, donors, and governments. 

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