Message from the Director

RADM Nancy Knight, MD speaks to the media with Chancellor Joe Gow of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse after touring a COVID-19 surge testing site on campus.

RADM Nancy Knight, MD speaks to the media with Chancellor Joe Gow of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse after touring a COVID-19 surge testing site on campus.
Photo: Peter Thomson, La Crosse Tribune

The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates the stark reality that a health threat anywhere is a health threat everywhere. Until every country has the capacity to prevent, detect, and respond to health threats, we are all vulnerable. Now more than ever, we live in an interconnected world where disease threats such as Ebola, measles, and COVID-19 spread faster and more unpredictably. Health threats have a profound impact on economic and political systems and weaken the social fabric of every nation.

As I reflect on 2021, and the challenges we faced amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and other public health threats, I am also reminded of the advances we made. For more than 30 years, our division has worked with ministries of health and partners worldwide to strengthen existing public health systems and help close gaps in global health security.

Through our Field Epidemiology Training Program we have helped train more than 19,000 disease detectives to collect, analyze, and interpret data and respond to outbreaks before they spread. We also established in-country rapid response teams and emergency operations centers to respond to disease outbreaks and other public health crises such as the 2021 Haiti earthquake that displaced more than 38,000 people from their homes, damaged or destroyed approximately 90 health centers in southwestern Haiti, and disrupted access to clean water. In addition, we have developed and strengthened over 30 National Public Health Institutes—CDC-like science-driven institutions that lead essential public health functions.

This issue of Updates from the Field highlights some of DGHP’s 2021 successes, emphasizing the importance of investing in public health systems to advance global health security and respond to COVID-19 and other crises. For example, during the 2014–2016 Ebola epidemic, Guinea did not have a national Emergency Operations Center (EOC) network. By 2021, because of Global Health Security Agenda funding, Guinea’s EOC network had the capacity to simultaneously coordinate responses to polio, measles, yellow fever, COVID-19, and Ebola—and activate within 24 hours of each emergency declaration.

This issue also provides a glimpse into the pivotal role our experts played supporting the Government of India’s scale-up of laboratory capabilities. Our experts participated in national and sub-national level advisory and expert committee groups and contributed to the rapid expansion of SARS-COV-2 testing. These efforts were critical to India mitigating COVID-19’s second wave.

Although we’ve made significant strides, we must remain vigilant in our pursuit of global health security. We will continue to leverage resources, so countries are better positioned to respond to emerging health threats. I am confident that by working together, we will come out stronger as a nation and a people.

Dr. Knight's signature

RADM Nancy Knight, MD
Director, Division of Global Health Protection
Center for Global Health