IANPHI Renews its Strategic Vision to Reflect Exceptional Times for National Public Health Institutes

At the 2020 IANPHI Annual Meeting, IANPHI’s strategy working group presented a new five-year strategic plan to adapt to a changing public health panorama.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated social, economic and health inequalities around the world, making 2020 a year of exceptional crises for the global public health community. As key responders to outbreak, national public health institutes (NPHI) provide independent scientific evidence and recommendations to decision makers. IANPHI links and strengthens member NPHIs through this pandemic and beyond.

Midway through our 2017-2022 strategic plan, IANPHI encountered developments within our member network which also required we revisit the plan. In 2018, IANPHI launched three new regional networks: Asia; Europe; and Latin America and the Caribbean, in addition to the IANPHI-Africa network which had been previously established in 2013. In January 2019 IANPHI revised its legal status by becoming an international non-profit association. This new status allows IANPHI to more fully engage partners and better mobilize external resources.

To address these changes and new challenges, IANPHI created a strategy working group in 2020 led by Public Health England. Working group members included representatives from Brazil’s Fiocruz, Burkina Faso’s Institut National de Santé Publique, Bangladesh’s Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Germany’s Robert Koch Institute, the Saudi Centre for Disease Prevention & Control, as well as representatives of the World Health Organization and the World Federation of Public Health Associations. 

The goal of the working group was to prepare IANPHI for the coming years and to accompany members into the evolving international public health panorama by intensifying IANPHI’s technical and direct support to members and strengthen collaboration with partners. 

Five Strategic Priorities for the Next Five Years

The working group’s months-long effort resulted in a draft IANPHI Strategic Vision 2021-2025 consisting of five strategic priorities that were presented during the 2020 IANPHI Annual Meeting.

These five priorities reflect IANPHI’s core support to its members; a unique global forum to develop lasting relationships, a network of experts to develop NPHI capacity, a wealth of public health experience from around the globe, a unified voice promoting NPHIs, and an agile network that can accompany its members through change. They are:

  1. Strengthen the professional relationships within IANPHI’s unique global forum, by offering members innovative networking opportunities at the IANPHI Annual Meeting, regional network meetings, webinars, workshops, and targeted discussions at the global and regional levels.
  2. Harness the collective expertise of members to develop public health capacity globally, by reviewing the Framework for the Creation and Development of National Public Health Institutes, raising better awareness of IANPHI tools, building an online knowledge platform and offering training resources.
  3. Engage, support and grow IANPHI’s diverse and unified membership base, by mapping NPHIs across the world in order to reach out to prospective members, by increasing the visibility of IANPHI services, and by adapting the peer-to-peer evaluation tool.
  4. Advocate in support of NPHIs as key public health actors in the international arena, facilitate discussions between members and international and regional organizations and develop an NPHI Code of Practice, which includes core values such as scientific independence. 
  5. Build an agile association to support its members through change, by organizing NPHI lessons learned exercises from major international public health events, including on COVID-19, to integrate good practices.

Key Themes Discussed In-Depth

Public Health England’s Cathy Morgan guided the discussions that followed the presentation of each priority. Members emphasized some of key themes such as NPHI scientific independence from influence. 

“Advocating for scientifically independent NPHIs is more important now than ever,” said Bjørn Iversen of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.

“There might be a need to define ‘independence’ since its definition and views may vary at different places,” said Ebba Abate of the Ethiopian Public Health Institute. “It may be impossible to run things without getting attention from the government, especially in resource poor areas. However, maintaining scientific excellence and scientific autonomy is critical.”

Paulo Buss of Fiocruz talked about how reinforcing and developing new partnerships will support IANPHI’s advocacy for strong and independent NPHIs. “IANPHI could seek to obtain a formal relationship with the United Nations”, he suggested.

Another key theme of the discussions was the role of social and behavioral sciences, and in particular the importance for NPHIs to address inequities that often divide health outcomes. 

Felix Rosenberg of Fiocruz said that he wanted to “endorse very strongly the need for our institutes to start to incorporate social qualitative research.”

“Our influence must be on social determinants of health,” added Natalie Mayet, deputy director of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases in South Africa.

“The main determinant of health outcome is income,” said Duncan Selbie, IANPHI’s incoming president. “Addressing inequity is definitely part of our core business.”

IANPHI Members Invited to Send Final Comments

As a next step, IANPHI members are now invited to share their comments on the new IANPHI Strategic Vision 2021-2025 with the IANPHI Secretariat by January 5, 2021. IANPHI plans to then share a revised draft with its partners throughout January, and to publish the finalized strategy in March 2021.

IANPHI will also produce an action plan to implement the five-year vision and ensure progress can be tracked and reported. 

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