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NPHI Stories: Strengthening National Health in Colombia

Representatives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the International Association of National Public Health Institutes are greeted by Instituto Nacional de Salud Director Dr. Martha Lucía Ospina and colleagues

CDC and IANPHI representatives are greeted by Instituto Nacional de Salud Director Dr. Martha Lucía Ospina and colleagues

A nation with a strong public health system is prepared to tackle a health threat like Zika. With the support of CDC’s National Public Health Institute (NPHI) program and the International Association of National Public Health Institutes (IANPHI), Colombia is enhancing their public health system to deal with health threats like Zika through their Instituto Nacional de Salud (INS).

According to INS’s Dr. Maritza González, this project was critical for helping INS prepare for Zika and respond quickly when it hit. Prior to Zika, CDC and IANPHI were investing in INS to improve biosafety, biosecurity, surveillance, and communications. Under the project, INS had already improved its laboratories and invested in building a culture of laboratory safety. With support from CDC and IANPHI, INS was able to rapidly mobilize its staff to contribute to the Zika response and ensure they had the necessary supplies to do so. The project also included risk communication training, which taught INS leaders how to be empathetic while providing technical information – to go beyond a focus just on the technical aspects and become more effective in sharing important public health messages. Additionally, engagement with the media highlighted INS’s critical leadership role in Colombia’s Zika response.

Microbiologist Dr. Andrés Montilla stands next to a cabinet purchased by the project

Microbiologist Dr. Andrés Montilla stands next to a cabinet purchased by the project

In June 2016, CDC and IANPHI teams visited Colombia’s INS and planned the second and third phases of NPHI investment. The project’s next phases will build on communications, data and information sharing, and lab safety.

“CDC and IANPHI have helped transform our institution. We are increasingly transparent and open. We are striving to advance public health in Colombia by engaging with experts, the general public, and all the groups that depend on us for information and guidance in ways that meet their needs,” says INS Director Dr. Martha Lucía Ospina.

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