NPHI Stories: Zambia: Learning from Cholera Outbreak to Build a Stronger Public Health Institute
Stopping cholera at the pass requires a strong national public health system, and this is part of the vision of the new Zambia National Public Health Institute (ZNPHI). Its response to a recent cholera outbreak gave ZNPHI the opportunity to identify strengths and set priorities as it develops Zambia’s first Public Health Emergency Operations Center (PHEOC).
“We didn’t expect [the cholera outbreak] would be so big; we mobilized ourselves and opened a cholera center here…whatever we did here can be used to do better,” says a representative from Bauleni Clinic in Zambia’s capital city of Lusaka. Now, the country is working with partners to increase public health system capacity.
In June, CDC and the International Association of National Public Health Institutes (IANPHI) traveled to Lusaka, responding to a request by the Ministry of Health (MoH). Meeting with newly-appointed ZNPHI Director Dr. Maximillian Bweupe, teams discussed how to build a PHEOC, taking into account lessons from the cholera outbreak. They reviewed the incident management structure, key partnerships, standard operating procedures, and rapid response mechanisms to create a path for expanding ZNPHI capacities.
Since its launch, ZNPHI has focused on integrating and coordinating public health activity, and addressing major public health problems. With support from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), ZNPHI strives to be a home for country-led HIV epidemiology, surveillance, research, and public health action. MoH and partners recently finalized a 5-year strategic plan for ZNPHI, which identifies public health emergency preparedness and response as a core priority. As Dr. Patrick Kangwa, Permanent Secretary of the Zambia Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit noted, public health emergency management was identified well before the 2016 cholera outbreak. “Ebola gave us an eye opener to some of the things we must do…we look forward to the capacity that will be built in the Ministry of Health.”
CDC and IANPHI will continue to support ZNPHI as it builds its PHEOC and emergency preparedness and response plans, while ZNPHI also leverages strong partnerships to improve how it detects and responds to outbreaks.