CDC Supports the Ministry of Health in Guatemala in the Creation of a National Public Health InstitutePosted on by
Big things often start small. So do success stories.
For proof, simply look to CDC’s work – and history – in Central America. From a single field station established more than 40 years ago in El Salvador by CDC’s Division of Parasitic Diseases; CDC today has a broad and respected presence across Central America and other countries in the region.
As in other parts of the world, we are working closely with public health colleagues across the region to strengthen the capacity of Ministries of Health to prevent, detect, and control disease. We work collaboratively to strengthen countries’ abilities to respond to public health threats by providing technical expertise and evidence-based foundations for a wide array of public health programs.
The hub of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) activities in the region are through CDC’s Central American Regional Office (CDC-CAR) based in Guatemala. Since opening in the 70s the over-arching mission has been to translate research into public health policy and practice, to impact and improve the quality of public health services.
More specifically, the Central American Regional Office focuses on strengthening the Ministry of Health’s public health capacity through seven resident (in-country) programs – with the objective of supporting the National Health Plans of the countries and the Regional Plan of the Council of Ministers of Health of Central America (COMISCA).
CDC-CAR programs in Central America tackle a range of priority health issues with an approach tailored to local and regional conditions. They include influenza, emerging infectious diseases, HIV/AIDS, zoonotic and parasitic diseases. Other efforts are designed to build capacity, to prepare and respond to emergencies and disasters, training field epidemiologists and strengthening laboratory systems.
Creation of the New Public Health Institute in Guatemala
Those efforts along with the close and collaborative relationship with Guatemalan health officials have yielded real results.
In late 2012, for example, Guatemala’s Minister of Health announced his interest to create a National Public Health Institute (NPHI) for the country.
For years CDC and the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) have been two of the most notable partners for the Ministry of Health. In 2013, The CDC-CAR Director (Dr. Nelson Arboleda), together with the PAHO/WHO representative for Guatemala (Dr. Guadalupe Verdejo), received a request from the Minister of Health to support the creation of the new NPHI.
This started the ball rolling almost immediately. CDC and PAHO began coordinating visits to other similar institutions in the region to identify lessons learned and potential approaches for NPHI development in Guatemala. In May 2013, NPHI Director (Dr. Mayari Centeno) visited The Gorgas Institute in Panama and in September of the same year, visited the recently established National Institute of Health in El Salvador. Both visits were very productive and provided a new perspective for the structure of the Guatemalan NPHI.
Continued Support to Guatemala
In February, Guatemala’s NPHI director, Dr. Mayari Centeno visited CDC offices in Atlanta. She met with CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden; Dr. Tom Kenyon, Director of CDC’s Center for Global Health; Carmen Villar, CDC Chief of Staff and many other CDC experts and senior leaders.
The visit provided productive discussions and the opportunity to explore opportunities to collaborate further on public health priorities for Guatemala, the Region and the United States.
The NPHI will have five divisions which will focus on epidemiology, laboratory, research/ethics, health education and public health management. The majority of CDC supported projects fit strategically within the newly established Guatemalan NPHI.
Additionally, the support HHS/CDC is giving to the NPHI in Guatemala fits well with the recently launched strategy on Global Health Security, one of the U.S. government’s highest public health priorities, that will refine – and strengthen – the ability to prevent, detect and respond to public health threats worldwide at the earliest possible opportunity.
CDC is committed to working with the Ministry of Health in Guatemala and throughout the region to continue to build public health capacity, to conduct non-communicable disease surveillance, to expand their Field Epidemiology Training programs (FETP), strengthen laboratory capacity, address the HIV/AIDS epidemic, consolidate their national research ethics committees and generate NPHI bulletins. CDC will also support Guatemala’s NPHI in becoming a member of the International Association of National Public Health Institutes – IANPHI – to connect it with similar institutions globally and develop a stronger overall public health system.