Côte d’Ivoire Builds Trust in Public Health with First Public Health Bulletin

The Institut National de Santé Publique (INSP), IANPHI’s member institute in Côte d’Ivoire, published the country’s first public health bulletin last week, in coordination with national stakeholders and with support from IANPHI and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Côte d'Ivoire's INSP, IANPHI and CDC teams

Representatives from INSP, IANPHI and U.S. CDC during a visit to Abidjan in August 2022

The purpose of public health bulletins is to inform health professionals and the population about public health threats and provide information about prevention and treatment so that action can be taken to minimize threats and protect the public's health. Bulletins typically feature research findings and data, surveillance reports, and outbreak reports. Many national public health institutes have launched public health bulletins. On April 12, 2023, the INSP of Côte d’Ivoire in West Africa became the latest institute to do so.

Published on a quarterly basis, Côte d’Ivoire’s new bulletin serves as the authoritative voice of the Ministry of Health, Public Hygiene and Universal Health Coverage, providing a trusted, timely, and influential source of public health information. According to Prof. Claude N'dindin, director of INSP and director of publication of the bulletin, "its main mission is to bridge the gap in access to information between decision-makers, researchers, health professionals and all those interested in health issues."

The bulletin serves as a communication channel to practitioners, young researchers, and actors from all fields of socio-health to share experiences of interventions, the results of routine data analysis and research conducted at the subnational and district levels of the national health system. The bulletin also helps to train young researchers to write scientific manuscripts.

The inaugural issue of the bulletin features six articles, focusing in part on child and maternal health. It is available on INSP’s new website, which was also built with support from IANPHI and U.S. CDC, and is disseminated electronically to over a thousand recipients, including staff of the Ministry of Health, Public Hygiene and Universal Health Coverage and partner institutions at national, regional, district and local levels. 

Recognizing the value of national research

The bulletin follows a years-long effort by INSP’s leadership to revitalize the activities of the institute, which focus on public health research and workforce development, after suffering disruptions during the 2010-2011 post-electoral crisis. 

In September 2020, INSP, IANPHI, and U.S. CDC conducted a Staged Development Tool workshop to assess INSP’s capacity, identify gaps, and develop a roadmap to achieve INSP’s ambition to become a center of excellence for public health research. 

"The implementation of the public health bulletin is part of a global movement to promote health research activities," said Prof. William Yavo, deputy director of training and research at INSP and deputy director of publication of the bulletin. “There are projects in the health research ecosystem at INSP and in other structures, which were not sufficiently valued by the general public.” The COVID-19 pandemic and the need to counter the influence of misinformation made the creation of a bulletin all the more relevant for INSP.

In 2022, INSP received support from IANPHI and U.S. CDC to implement a public health bulletin project. “We seized the opportunity of our close partnership with IANPHI and CDC to create a public health bulletin,” said Prof. Yavo. "The bulletin allows us to provide scientific evidence to facilitate decision-making and provide reliable information on the health of the population to health actors, decision-makers and the general public.”

Prof. Yavo credited his team for the success of the project. "I want to say how proud I am to have such a team," he said. “Without their commitment, we would not have succeeded”.

Prof. Sackou, chief editor of the public health bulletin, and her deputies

A team effort

A joint IANPHI–U.S. CDC visit to Abidjan in August 2022 helped INSP make progress toward establishing the bulletin. INSP and CDC staff worked to define the scope of the bulletin, identified sources of data articles, identified key PHB stakeholders, and developed strategies to promote and disseminate the bulletin.

U.S. CDC also shared its guidance document for starting a public health bulletin, held regular meetings over several months with INSP to discuss country-specific issues, provided training in scientific writing, and invited the institute to join the monthly community of practice with other editors of U.S. CDC-supported public health bulletins to discuss challenges and best practices.

“The support from U.S. CDC and IANPHI helped INSP establish the bulletin but INSP’s leadership and ownership of the project were key to the successes that we have observed so far,” said Henry Vandi, health scientist with U.S. CDC’s NPHI Program who worked closely with Prof. Yavo and his INSP colleagues. 

Leadership and challenges

In February 2023, the Minister of Health, Public Hygiene and Universal Healthcare, Pierre Dimba, signed a decree to formalize the creation of the bulletin under the coordination of INSP. The decree set out the bulletin’s management structure and formed an advisory board.

Chaired by Mr. Dimba, the advisory board brings together several institutions, including the Institut National d’Hygiène Publique, the Pasteur Institute of Côte d'Ivoire, the Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Program, three universities, the WHO Country Office, and the U.S. CDC Country Office.

The secretariat of the advisory board is led by the director of INSP, Prof. N'dindin, who also leads the bulletin's management committee. An editor-in-chief, Prof. Julie Sackou-Kouakou, and three deputies, Dr. Djane Adou, Dr. Tania N'Zi-Boa, Dr. Raïssa Kourouma – all INSP researchers, were appointed to lead an editorial board of researchers from INSP and other research institutes. Prof. Sackou, who had been eager to see the project come to fruition in her four years at INSP, said she was “honored to participate in the democratization of health information.”

One of the challenges Prof. Sackou and her deputies have been facing has been to convince researchers from other institutions to get onboard with the project. Some researchers feared that publishing their findings in the bulletin may not help advance their careers like publishing in scientific journals does. To convince them, Prof. Sackou highlighted that articles published in the bulletin contribute to the promotion and popularization of science, which counts toward researchers’ advancement.

Another challenge is to get professionals from the health sector who are not researchers to write scientific manuscripts. The various training courses on scientific writing planned in the project will make it possible to meet this challenge.

Since 2016, U.S. CDC has supported the establishment and strengthening of bulletins in 17 countries across Africa, Asia, and Latin American – including Uganda and Rwanda, whose bulletins informed the development of the Côte d'Ivoire bulletin. Côte d'Ivoire is sharing lessons learned from establishing its bulletin with Burkina Faso, a neighboring Francophone country, which is also developing a public health bulletin with the support of U.S. CDC and IANPHI.

“It is important that public health bulletins are accessible and viewed by the public as a trusted source of information,” said Henry Vandi. “Therefore, CDC’s PHB Project provides support to NPHIs to expand the scope, reach, and generally improve the quality of those bulletins.” 

For Prof. Yavo, public health bulletins are also key to erase the language barrier between researchers and the population and make research project results accessible to the public. “Our bulletin creates a space to translate in simple words public health directives aiming at prevention, promotion, and patient care,” he said. “Ultimately, it will build people’s confidence to take ownership of their health and health education and encourage them to adopt responsible behaviors.”

A ceremony of presentation to stakeholders is planned to officially launch the bulletin. In the meantime, Prof. Sackou and her team have started the production of the three next issues of 2023.

Subscribe to the Public Health Bulletin of Côte d’Ivoire. To learn more about this project, contact Prof. Sackou at jk.sackou@bsp.inspci.org.    


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