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Tick, tock, tick tock—While others sleep, what are CDC experts doing to keep America safe?

Posted on by Kashef Ijaz, MD, MPH - Director (Acting) Division of Global Health Protection

 

Children wait for a bus on a street in downtown Mysore, India. The CDC is carrying out a range of programs in India to ensure a healthy and safe future for kids like these. (Photo Courtesy: David Snyder CDC Foundation)
Children wait for a bus on a street in downtown Mysore, India. The CDC is carrying out a range of programs in India to ensure a healthy and safe future for kids like these. (Photo Courtesy: David Snyder CDC Foundation)
A team from the Zambia Ministry of Health administers a questionnaire to a family in Siavonga District.
A team from the Zambia Ministry of Health administers a questionnaire to a family in Siavonga District.

As the clock ticks and people sleep peacefully, public health experts from CDC’s Division of Global Health Protection (DGHP) in collaboration with subject matter experts across CDC both in Atlanta and around the world are working 24/7 to support the agency’s mission to protect the health and safety of Americans and save lives.

Keeping people safe is a multifaceted, complex job grounded in science, dynamic data collection and analysis systems, and decades of experience responding to urgent public health threats. It is a tireless job that requires working with multiple partners with differing perspectives and backgrounds to improve lab diagnostic and testing capabilities, strengthen emergency operation centers, and improve disease detection and response capacities. Each of these elements is critical to preventing infectious diseases from crossing boundaries and becoming global pandemics. It is work that requires collaborating with foreign leaders, ministries of health, non-governmental organizations, and other U.S. government institutions to build consensus and implement effective plans to improve health systems, build vital capabilities, and stop diseases at their source. Disease prevention, detection, and outbreak response requires that countries be equipped to carry out a set of functions that are the cornerstone of strong public health systems. Many countries consolidate these functions organizationally in a National Public Health Institute (NPHI) – a science-based organization, or network of organizations, that provides leadership and coordination for public health at the national level. NPHIs promote evidence-based decisions, policies, and programs, and become the logical partner in government-to-government public health relationships. As of December 2016, CDC has provided support to 20 countries to either develop or strengthen their NPHIs.

Jean Robert, FETP resident, performing rapid diagnostic testing for cholera at a cholera treatment center in Jeremie commune, Grande Anse Department, Haiti.
Jean Robert, FETP resident, performing rapid diagnostic testing for cholera at a cholera treatment center in Jeremie commune, Grande Anse Department, Haiti. (Photo Courtesy: Ashley Greiner)

There is no silver bullet when it comes to health security and protecting Americans. DGHP knows this well and has developed a set of strategic, complementary programs that address our collective vulnerabilities and build systems to keep the world safe from pandemics. With the numerous ongoing health threats in 2016, CDC’s Global Disease Detection Operations Center (GDDOC) housed in DGHP, tracked more than 300 outbreaks in 130 countries for more than 40 different diseases. GDDOC issued over 1000 reports for outbreaks in 2016, including MERS in the Middle East to Yellow Fever in West Africa, Zika virus in the Americas, and Cholera worldwide. The team continues to keep a constant watch on flu and the global polio situation. GDDOC staff review and verify information sources through a global network of public health professionals and reviewed for signs of emerging threats to the public’s health. Through rapid information gathering, prompt verification, and timely dissemination of information, the GDDOC ensures that CDC is always tracking potential disease threats. CDC has also worked with countries to build their own outbreak response capacity. Trainees and graduates from CDC’s Field Epidemiology Training Program (FETP) in over 70 countries responded to hundreds of potential outbreaks including Ebola in West Africa; MERS-CoV in the Middle East, South Korea and the Philippines; polio in Pakistan and Nigeria; Nipah virus in Bangladesh; acute encephalitis in India; and earthquake recovery in Haiti . To expand workforce capabilities at the local level, more than 1200 trainees graduated from new FETP-Frontline programs in 2016; these graduates are helping to ensure disease monitoring extends down to the local level so that threats can be detected—and stopped—quickly.

To enhance CDC’s global emergency response capacity, our Global Rapid Response Team (Global RRT) has more than 50 experts ready to deploy anywhere in the world within 24-48 hours. This team of ready responders took quick action in the wake of Hurricane Matthew in Haiti, including activating an Incident Management System for the first time, and deploying staff to Haiti to provide essential surveillance, laboratory, water, sanitation and hygiene epidemiology and policy support to the response. Since its establishment less than two years ago, Global RRT experts have supported more than 140 responses and provided assistance at mass gatherings and natural disasters in 18 countries. This translated to more than 8,000 person-days of CDC Global RRT experts in the field, helping mitigate the impact of emergencies and outbreaks.

History and experience have taught us that no one country can achieve global health security alone. To improve global health security and keep America safe, DGHP serves as a leading implementer with support and collaboration of subject matter experts across CDC for the agency’s efforts to broaden, sustain, and strengthen the Global Health Security Agenda. They are leading the charge for the agency as it is positioned to help establish broader and more sustainable global health platforms that can address the spectrum of known and unknown public health threats that countries face. This worldwide effort was launched in February 2014 with other U.S. government agencies and partners from multiple sectors to enhance global capabilities to prevent, detect, and rapidly respond to infectious disease threats and achieve measurable targets.

In 2016, DGHP was successful in working with partners to complete Joint External Evaluations (JEE) in 28 countries. These evaluations are critical in helping countries identify gaps in their health systems as well as opportunities to prioritize development in disease prevention, detection, and response. Twenty additional evaluations are scheduled for early 2017, putting the global community on target for the completion of at least 50 JEEs by the World Health Assembly in May 2017.

In 2017 and beyond, it is critical that DGHP continue to do everything possible to work collaboratively with global partners, other U.S. government agencies, and subject matter experts across CDC to improve global health security and protect the health and safety of Americans. As the clock continues to tick, we know that it is only a matter of time until another outbreak occurs. The unknowns are where it will strike, which pathogen it will be, and when it will hit. We are not able to predict every potential public health threat, but CDC is being proactive in establishing the systems, enhancing the institutions, and training the people who can detect and react effectively to any pathogen, or other public health threat that endangers us. Keeping this in mind, the American people can sleep safely knowing that no matter the nature of the outbreak or emergency, CDC technical experts are on watch 24/7, ready to take swift, effective action to stop it in its tracks.

To learn more about DGHP’s activities to improve global health security, check out the Winter 2017 issue of Updates from the Field and subscribe so that you can receive updates automatically and stay informed.

 

 

 

 

Posted on by Kashef Ijaz, MD, MPH - Director (Acting) Division of Global Health ProtectionTags

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