Georgetown University, with funding from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US-CDC), is set to launch the Public Health Emergency Preparedness, Response & Recovery (PHEPRR) fellowship.
This is a significant development aimed at strengthening healthcare in West Africa.
Health experts made this known at a two-day programme holding in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, on the needs assessment for the development of the fellowship.
The Director General Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Ifedayo Adetifa welcomed the idea of a public health emergency response and recovery fellowship as a means to further boost health security and public health workforce.
Dr Adetifa noted that the vision is for the fellowship programme to develop a robust curriculum and be instrumental in shaping the landscape of health security and public health workforce capacity at all levels of the country.
“While the focus is usually on emergency preparedness and response, in the context of a health care system that is often challenged, as we have seen during outbreaks or during pandemics, it’s also important to discuss recovery or what other people may call resilience…The resilience of a health system or ability for it to recover in good time following significant threats is part of what will guarantee that we indeed mitigate the population impact of some of the health emergencies that we have to look after,”he explained.
The NCDC Director General stated that the region’s history, marked by various threats, such as the West African Ebola outbreak, recent challenges posed by COVID-19, and intermittent issues like Lassa fever and Cholera, underscores the pressing need for such initiatives.
He appreciated the collaborative efforts of Georgetown University, the US CDC, partners across Africa, and all stakeholders involved in the endeavour.
In his address of welcome and expectations for the fellowship, Kerton R. Victory, the West Africa Regional Advisor for the US CDC, emphasised the pressing regional need to bolster emergency preparedness and response capabilities across West Africa.
Victory explained that the imperative involved cultivating a diverse workforce capable of effectively addressing both current and future infectious disease threats within the region.
He said; “the first objective of this is to identify approaches to address response and coordination to strengthen health systems during emergencies. Also, to produce real-time, tailored, accountable plans and roadmaps to strengthen emergency operations, achieve sustained transmission and recovery phases of a health programme, address gaps in the international health regulation implementation, to support regional alignment with the global health security agenda. And last but not least, is to develop long-term, after-action resiliency plan considerations and plans related to emergency capacity, workforce, and infrastructure.”
Victory advocated collaborative efforts to ensure the long-term success and implementation of the programme, which he said would “address the needs within West Africa and strengthen emergency preparedness in the region.”
Also speaking, the Field Resident Director of Georgetown University, Assistant Prof Ibrahim Gobir stated that the fellowship aimed to ensure preparedness and quick response to diseases and epidemics.
While bolstering the need for preparedness, he said; “we have to continue to look at approaches that will get us to be ready, in some places and some establishments, they do fire drills, as basic as fire drill is, if you do not have that in place and you don’t conduct some form of exercises to show that this your fire drill works, on the day you have a fire, people will be confused.”
Professor Gobir explained that the idea behind the programme was to ensure that the member countries are ready and resilient in the face of health challenges.
He added that the fellowship intends to involve the government and the society at large while focusing on the one health approach which encompasses human health, animal health, and environmental health.
In her address, Dr. Mary Adetinuke Boyd, Country Director US CDC Nigeria, highlighted the significance of the gathering by emphasising the impact of recent infectious disease outbreaks that have affected multiple countries in the region, such as Ebola, Marburg, measles, cholera, SARS, and Anthrax.
Dr. Boyd noted that international health regulations and joint external evaluation indicators have identified emergency preparedness and response as a critical pillar to prevent response paralysis and support global health security.
She said that Nigeria had recently completed its second joint external evaluation, resulting in a 15-point improvement in the overall score from 2017 to 2023, with the points of entry section moving from yellow to green.
However, she acknowledged that “there is still much work to be done both in Nigeria and the wider region.”
Dr. Boyd introduced the Public Health Emergency Preparedness Response and Recovery Fellowship as a strategic initiative designed to address the remaining gaps in the region.
She said; “The Public Health Emergency Preparedness Response and Recovery Fellowship aims to address some of those remaining gaps through the establishment of formal training for public health professionals who are responsible for preparedness and response plans, policies, procedures during a public health emergency to enable countries to better prepare for, to better respond to, as well as to recover faster from public health events, beyond ports, beyond healthcare, but the kind of preparedness that can be felt across sectors, whether it’s education, physical security, et cetera.”
Voice of Nigeria reports that Burkina Faso, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo were represented at the event.
SOURCE: Voice of Nigeria