The International Association of National Public Health Institutes (IANPHI), has awarded its first short- and mid-term technical assistance grants to public health institutes in five nations. The awards are the result of a $20 million, five-year grant last year from the Gates Foundation to Emory University, in partnership with Finland's National Public Health Institute, KTL, to support IANPHI.
IANPHI is an international alliance dedicated to optimizing public health service delivery and decision-making globally by improving national public health institutes (NPHIs) around the world. Jeffrey Koplan, MD, MPH, vice president for academic health affairs at Emory University's Woodruff Health Sciences Center and former director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is IANPHI president and principal investigator for the IANPHI grant. IANPHI was established in 2006 with 39 founding members; ten new members joined the association in its second General Assembly this year in Beijing, China.
The new grants include three short-term technical assistance grants to NPHIs in Iran, Thailand and Uganda. The Institute of Public Health Research in Iran was given a grant to develop a training program on disaster management and risk reduction, with the peer assistance of national and international partners.
"Iran is the sixth most disaster prone country in the world," says the institute's director, Professor Alireza Mesdaghinia. "About four thousand people die and an additional 55,000 are affected by natural disasters annually. Its capability to respond is very limited, however, because of the shortage of well-trained disaster response teams, including policy, planning and field operations."
A second short-term grant to Thailand's National Institute of Health will support training in biosafety and risk assessment for laboratory staff. Upon completion of their instruction, trainees will assume responsibility for the institute's biosafety activities.
A one-year grant to the Ugandan Viral Research Institute is aimed at increasing the institute's contributions to public health in the nation, with emphasis on partnerships and sustainability. Funds will be used to develop and executive a strategic plan, establish a computer-equipped resource center and build affiliations with others working to improve public health in Uganda. The grant will also support improvements in the institute's financial and grants management systems.
The Institutos Nacional de Salud in Colombia will use a three-year IANPHI grant to implement a pilot site for the study of chronic diseases, which have become a major public health problem in that country. The project will integrate surveillance, research and monitoring functions and increase capacity on the local level, eventually leading to the establishment of a sustainable network of surveillance and research sites to guide national-level public health decision-making.
A grant to the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research will help strengthen monitoring and surveillance systems for infectious diseases; develop a coordinated system for emergency preparedness; establish systems for field and outbreak investigation and develop a framework for new functions including health promotion and chronic disease.
In addition, three seed grants were awarded to institutes in Cuba, Guinea Bissau and Uganda to support public health research in low-resource countries.
IANPHI soon will award long-term technical assistance grants of up to five years with the goal of helping create national public health institutes in countries that already have some public health infrastructure. These grants will involve visits by teams from other countries' public health institutes and support of specific projects.
"Although it is still a young endeavor, IANPHI is well positioned to act as a catalyzing point for national public health institute development, leadership and advocacy and thus strengthen international health security," says Dr. Koplan. "Over the past year our member public health institutes have been in the forefront of protecting our health security through their roles in detecting and containing avian influenza, coping with natural disasters, investigating new outbreaks of disease and strengthening their routine disease surveillance systems."