IANPHI Hosts COVID-19 Webinar on the Role of West African NPHIs

IANPHI hosted its first COVID-19 webinar in French on April 29 after recently holding a series of webinars in English featuring senior leaders from the Italian, Korean and Chinese national public health institutes (NPHI). This latest webinar was dedicated to the role of West African NPHIs in the COVID-19 response and was organized at the initiative of Dr. Hervé Hien, director general of Burkina Faso’s national public health institute (NPHI). It sought to link Francophone West African NPHIs to foster sharing scientific findings and good practices to reinforce their role in the battle against COVID-19.

Moderated by Dr. Jean-Claude Desenclos, secretary general of IANPHI and scientific director of Santé publique France, the webinar featured presentations by Dr. Hien, Prof. Dinard Kouassi, director general of the Côte d'Ivoire NPHI, and Dr. Abdoulaye Touré, director general of the Guinea NPHI, as well as a Q&A session with the participants.

The three panelists each described the epidemiological situation of their country, the role of their institute in the COVID-19 response, as well as ways of improving scientific and technical coordination between NPHIs in the region. All three NPHIs are heavily involved in the management of the response at the national level, and they all work to provide scientific evidence to their government to help the decision-making process.

In Burkina Faso, the NPHI’s Emergency Operations Center hosts the national coordination against COVID-19. The NPHI participates in the development and implementation of research at the ministry of health to guide decision-making, and in the production of data and normative documents. One of the pillars of the institute, the national reference laboratory, participates and organizes the diagnosis of COVID-19 tests. The NPHI also participates in thematic groups and assists field teams by providing a database of 50 public health specialists.

In Côte d'Ivoire, the NPHI has two fundamental missions in the fight against the pandemic: public health workforce training and biomedical research. The institute has launched a series of studies to guide the government in decision-making, such as a study on the knowledge, attitudes and practices of the population with regard to preventive measures, and a study on the description and characterization of the epidemiological profile of confirmed and contact cases. The NPHI also conducted two training phases for all levels of the health pyramid. The first phase of general training took place at the end of March 2020 and was attended by 600 to 1,000 public health professionals. The second phase of specialized training on different themes was launched on April 8 and has already trained 10,000.

The Guinea NPHI started implementing a sentinel surveillance system for influenza epidemics before the COVID-19 pandemic. The response plan created in November 2019 has proven useful for the COVID-19 surveillance and diagnostic system, which relies primarily on the sentinel sites. The NPHI sits on the government’s inter-ministerial response monitoring council and on the scientific council. It participates through the national laboratory in the evaluation of new diagnostic tools made available in the country and supports all laboratories in strengthening their capacity to produce diagnostics.

Regarding the possibilities of scientific and technical collaboration between NPHIs, Dr. Hien mentioned the need for regular exchanges, the development of working tools and protocols that could be used in different countries and the sharing of guidelines, research results and scientific literature monitoring. For Prof. Kouassi, exchanges through sub-regional health organizations, such as this IANPHI webinar, allow the sharing of experiences, good practices, fields of expertise and data as well as the pooling of resources. Dr. Touré mentioned the importance of international collaboration, with his institute working with the West African Health Organization and the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on many operational aspects, as well as with the World Health Organization, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other foundations and research institutes.

All the resources from this webinar are available here.

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