CDC Support Improves Uzbekistan’s Detection of COVID-19
- U.S. CDC office in Uzbekistan supported the country’s Ministry of Health (MOH) to build a public health emergency management (PHEM) program.
- As COVID-19 spread, the U.S. CDC team in Uzbekistan worked closely with the MOH to open a Public Health Emergency Operations Center (PHEOC).
- With the PHEM program, Uzbekistan’s MOH is better positioned to assess public health threats and take steps to ensure strong coordination and decision-making.
Flags of United States and Uzbekistan on display during official launch ceremony of Uzbekistan’s Public Health Emergency Operations Center (PHEOC). Photo by Haqyor Haydarov/U.S. Embassy in Uzbekistan.
As the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the world in early 2020, countries worked hard to contain this new virus. The Central Asian country of Uzbekistan was no exception. Uzbekistan recorded its first case of COVID-19 on March 15, 2020, just two days after neighboring Kazakhstan reported the first case in the region.
Preparations to improve Uzbekistan’s ability to respond to public health emergencies were under way before COVID-19 arrived. With support from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (U.S. CDC), Uzbekistan’s government and Ministry of Health (MOH) were already in the process of building a public health emergency management (PHEM) program to respond to public health emergencies.
“As we grew to understand this virus, it really became more about figuring out how we were going to work together with health officials in Uzbekistan,” says Dr. Daniel Singer, U.S. CDC’s Central Asia director at the time. “It was important for us to understand what capabilities Uzbekistan already had in place to limit the spread of COVID-19 so we could determine how to best assist them.”
The decision to develop a PHEM program enabled the Ministry of Health to focus on:
- Identifying, training, and preparing MOH staff to manage public health responses
- Opening a Public Health Emergency Operations Center (PHEOC) to serve as the focal point for coordination and management of emergencies
- Creating systems that enable timely decision-making that leads to effective and efficient public health responses
Establishing the Public Health Emergency Operations Center
Dr. Daniel Singer, U.S. CDC Central Asia Director, addresses dignitaries during official launch of Uzbekistan’s Public Health Emergency Operations Center. Photo by Hamdam Sharakhmedov/Golden Minds.
Singer and his team suggested that developing a public health emergency program would help the government protect the health of its people. On October 14, 2020, Singer made a recommendation to open a public health emergency operations center.
Just six months later, the Government of Uzbekistan officially opened its Public Health Emergency Operations Center. The establishment of this PHEOC was supported by the U.S. CDC office in Uzbekistan along with partners Integral Global and the U.S. Civilian Research and Development Foundation. The U.S. CDC team in Uzbekistan trained core MOH staff to run the PHEOC and develop systems to help manage responses.
Uzbekistan’s PHEM program puts the Ministry of Health in a better position to assess public health threats and take steps to ensure strong coordination and decision-making.
In the past year, 36 public health experts, including 24 epidemiologists (also known as disease detectives) were trained on how to participate in an emergency response. Staff learned how to respond to infectious diseases brought in from other countries. They also learned how to use international standards to control and prevent the spread of infectious diseases at border crossings.
U.S. Ambassador Daniel Rosenblum and Bakhodir Yussupaliev, First Deputy Minister of Health, Director of the Agency for Sanitary and Epidemiological Wellbeing of Uzbekistan -- along with staff from the U.S. Mission in Uzbekistan, CDC partner organizations, and the Ministry of Health -- attend the official launch ceremony of Uzbekistan’s Public Health Emergency Operations Center (PHEOC). Photo by Haqyor Haydarov/U.S.Embassy in Uzbekistan.
There’s more work to do. The U.S. CDC team in Uzbekistan continues to train core staff in the national PHEOC and will begin training staff in regional health departments throughout the country. The team will also conduct a simulation exercise in June 2022 to test the plans, policies, and procedures that are developed by the PHEM program.
The creation of Uzbekistan’s PHEM program, like that of neighboring Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan, helps each country train staff to lead public health responses and, therefore, be better prepared for the next public health emergency in this part of the world.
Public health specialists work on Uzbekistan’s COVID-19 response in the new Public Health Emergency Operation Center. Photo by Hamdam Sharakhmedov/Golden Minds.
With the assistance of the U.S. CDC, Kazakhstan opened its emergency operations center in 2019. Tajikistan is finalizing preparations to open its own PHEOC.
COVID-19 shows us that an infectious disease threat anywhere can become a threat everywhere. The focus on building capabilities to prevent, detect, and respond to infectious disease threats is a paramount objective of the U.S. CDC’s global health security work.