2 January 2018

East Africa: EAC States Agree On Key Health Preventive Measures

THE East African Community (EAC) is on course to engage its partner states and international stakeholders on key health interventions to guarantee quality health to the people.

On disease prevention and control, the bloc is addressing key strategic interventions in establishing a regional information exchange system for communicable and non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and a regional reference public health laboratory and strengthening national public health laboratories.

The Head of Corporate Communications and Public Affairs, Mr Owora Othieno said here that further measures would be taken to strengthen preventive, curative and rehabilitative health services, in addition to strengthening capacity of the partner states in diagnosing and treating both communicable and NCDs.

To improve interventions, Mr Othieno said the Disease Prevention and Control Unit was implementing two major projects, namely, the East African Public Health Laboratory Networking Project (EAPHLNP) and the East African Integrated Disease Surveillance Network (EAIDSNet).

The EAPHLNP is a World Bank-funded project being implemented by the EAC partner states in collaboration with the EAC Secretariat, the East, Central and Southern Africa Health Community, the US Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The project seeks to establish a network of efficient, high quality, accessible public health laboratories for the diagnosis and surveillance of TB and other communicable diseases. The project supports 25 satellite laboratories within East Africa, laboratories that have been selected by the EAC member states based on their proximity to or location in border areas that are known to have large numbers of vulnerable populations, including migrants and or refugees; high risk of disease outbreaks and are predominant with indigenous populations.

Mr Othieno also disclosed that the EAPHLNP aims to achieve enhanced access to diagnostic services for vulnerable groups to contain the spread of diseases in the border areas; improved capacity to provide specialised diagnostic services and conducting drug resistance monitoring at regional level; improved capacity for disease surveillance and emergency preparedness efforts through availability of timely laboratory data to provide early warning of public health events and establish a platform for conducting training and research.

EAIDSNet is a regional collaborative initiative of the national ministries of the EAC partner states responsible for human and animal health in collaboration with the national health research and academic institutions.

EAIDSNet was formed in response to a growing frequency of cross-border malaria outbreaks in the 1990s and a growing recognition that fragmented disease interventions, coupled with weak laboratory capacity, were making it difficult to respond in timely manner to the outbreaks of malaria and other infectious diseases.

Since its revival in 2000, the EAC partner states, with financial support from the Rockefeller Foundation, established EAIDSNet in the same year to develop and strengthen the communication channels necessary for integrated cross-border disease surveillance and control efforts.

Its major accomplishments include the establishment of a department of Health within the EAC Secretariat to support a regional health agenda; successfull completion of a regional field simulation exercise in pandemic influenza preparedness and piloting a web-based portal for linking animal and human health disease surveillance.

The strategic direction of EAIDSNet was shaped, in part, by lessons learned following a visit to the more established Mekong Basin Disease Surveillance (MBDS) regional network.

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