Our Global Voices Posts
Even before the recent Ebola outbreak, the lack of quality healthcare was a major challenge in Sierra Leone, leading to the country suffering some of the highest maternal and child mortality rates in the world. When a major outbreak strikes, overburdened health systems struggle to take care of other critical health issues, like making sure children are immunized against vaccine-preventable diseases.
In Sierra Leone, less than 60% of children receive all recommended vaccines during their first year, and urban areas have even higher vaccine dropout rates. During the Ebola outbreak, we saw even these routine immunizations grind to a halt as the healthcare system was quickly overwhelmed by the rapidly spreading virus.
Immunizations are key to preventing the spread of infectious diseases like measles, which is why it is so important to have strong data and trained public health workers to launch vaccination campaigns. With the right information, public health workers can spring into action to prevent diseases from taking hold. This is why we are focusing on improving surveillance systems and training the public health workforce in Sierra Leone.
When Ebola struck in 2014, Sierra Leone lacked an effective infectious disease reporting system and enough trained epidemiologists – or disease detectives – to stop the outbreak, which then turned into an epidemic that claimed thousands of lives.
The situation in the country has since changed. Sierra Leone now has 58 disease detectives trained through the Frontline Field Epidemiology Training Program (FETP) with an additional 23 disease detectives currently undergoing training. Trainees and graduates have already investigated more than 50 outbreaks. Sierra Leone also has an Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response (IDSR) system. The IDSR system monitors for more than 45 diseases, conditions, and public health threats. A single case of an epidemic-prone disease, such as viral hemorrhagic fever, yellow fever, or cholera, is now reported within 24 hours by local and district public health facilities to the national office of the Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MoHS) so they can take quick action.
The IDSR system can detect outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases that impact children, such as measles. In 2016, the IDSR system helped increase the reporting of measles cases, which prompted the launch of nationwide measles vaccination campaigns. We are proud to say that, thanks to this campaign, more than 2.8 million kids were vaccinated against measles in Sierra Leone.
An added benefit to stronger data is that we realized that some cases that were being reported as measles were actually rubella. Rubella is very dangerous for pregnant women and their developing babies. With this new information pregnant mothers diagnosed with rubella can be monitored and we can advocate to our partners for additional vaccine campaigns targeting rubella.
Because fast and accurate information can help us get ahead of disease, CDC has been providing technical help to improve data quality, including rolling out the electronic IDSR (eIDSR) platform across Sierra Leone. These electronic systems can capture data on any device, including desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones. Most systems also have the capability to be used off-line, which is especially helpful in rural areas with poor internet connectivity. In a sign of the progress made since the Ebola outbreak, all districts are now electronically reporting their IDSR data to the national level.
Data tells us what is needed and where so that we can take quick and effective action. As Sierra Leone is demonstrating, it can help inform strategies to protect children and the communities they live in. Having better data – and people who are trained to use that data effectively – can stop outbreaks in their tracks, before they have a chance to become epidemics.Posted on by
Partnerships play an integral role in CDC’s international work. Eradication and elimination initiatives for vaccine-preventable diseases serve as examples underlining the importance of public-private partnerships. Global polio eradication has been and remains a top priority for CDC. It would be only the second time in history that a human disease has been eradicated, and partners Read More >Posted on by
As the communications officer for the Cameroonian Coalition for Tobacco Control (C3T), I know the importance of educating journalists and guiding them to use factually accurate information from trustworthy sources. If this does not happen, they could obtain distorted information and pass it on to the public. C3T has held media dialogues with journalists for a couple of years now. Because of the opportunities these events present to build the capacity of the media to report accurately on tobacco control, we have organized three media dialogues in 2017, with more scheduled in several regions of the country in the months ahead. Read More >Posted on by
While being a physician is certainly important to me, first and foremost I consider myself a native of Barbados. The people of Barbados are unique, but they share a commonality with citizens of many other countries: they struggle with a high burden of hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, and other risk factors for Read More >Posted on by
Providing routine immunization services is a global public health priority to protect families and children from vaccine-preventable diseases such as polio, measles, and cholera. In South Sudan, the world’s newest country, the need is enormous. Without vaccination, children and their communities may be vulnerable to preventable but deadly and disabling diseases. From 2008 to 2012, Read More >Posted on by
Vaccines Work: Leaving No Child Behind – How Pediatricians Can Contribute to Global Vaccine Coverage
In Nepal, pediatricians meet with a caregiver and frontline vaccinators to learn how pediatricians can more effectively advocate for vaccine access. Today, more children are saved by vaccines than ever before, but over 19 million children are still missing out on these critical life-saving vaccines each year across the world (WHO, 2017). To put Read More >Posted on by
World Malaria Day arrives today with a theme that is equal parts ambition and aspiration—“End Malaria for Good.” It’s catchy and encapsulates a universal goal. It also compels us to take unflinching stock to understand where we are in the fight against this beguiling foe. And more importantly, what needs to change to end a Read More >Posted on by
A historical overview on eliminating Meningitis in Africa In the 1990’s epidemics of meningitis sweeping across the vast span of the African continent known as the “meningitis belt” were claiming hundreds of thousands of lives and there was not much the global public health community was able to do. We all knew that a vaccine Read More >Posted on by
Some of the world’s most accomplished disease experts—including several of my colleagues in CDC’s Division of Parasitic Diseases and Malaria (DPDM)—are gathering in Geneva this week at the NTD Summit 2017. Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are a group of parasitic, bacterial, and viral diseases that cause illness and disability in more than 1.5 billion people Read More >Posted on by
Preventing Local Outbreaks from Becoming Global Pandemics: FETP Enhances Capabilities to Track Diseases and Stop Them at the Source
Christine Kihembo, FETP graduate from Uganda led a study in her country on Podoconiosis, a neglected tropical diseases that affects about 4 million people around the world. Above, the typical asymmetrical lymphedema (lower limb swelling) seen in podoconiosis. The skin on the affected limbs is thickened with warty and mossy nodules and toes are disfigured. Read More >Posted on by