Lab Matters Winter 2020 | Page 18

GLOBAL HEALTH Spanning Borders for a Cohesive Public Health Approach By Jill Sakai, PhD, writer On his desk at Health and Education Quality System Strengthening, the international health systems NGO he started in Guinea, Alpha Diallo, PhD, HCLD (ABB), displays an APHL statement about the importance of high-performing public health laboratories for all countries. With more than 40 years’ experience in public health in the United States and in Africa, Diallo has seen repeatedly the value of strategic investments that build the capacity, resilience and interconnectedness of laboratory systems, regardless of where the labs are located. “There is a parallel to be drawn about all the issues of public health laboratory systems. They are more acute in resource- limited settings, but they are the same in America—or, for that matter, in Europe,” Diallo said. “Diseases have no borders, especially emerging and reemerging infections, so the effective control of diseases rests on the strength of a global public health laboratory system.” That includes non-communicable diseases as well, such as high blood pressure, stroke and diabetes. As an international leader in public health laboratory systems and practices, APHL brings critical perspective and experience to its efforts to strengthen global networks to improve public health testing, surveillance and disease control efforts worldwide. “We are a global participant in public health, whether we want to be or not, so it makes sense to take an active role,” said Patricia Blevins, MPH, a laboratory coordinator in the San Antonio Metro Health District Laboratory who has been active in APHL’s global programs. “We’re trying to build and enhance this network globally, so we can ultimately protect people domestically.” 16 LAB MATTERS Winter 2020 Public health network planning and development required visits to participating laboratories in Indonesia. Photo: Frances Downes Preparedness Through Awareness Efforts conducted outside the US are linked to the APHL’s organizational priorities, said Frances Pouch Downes, DrPH, a professor of public health and clinical microbiology at Michigan State University and current chair of the APHL Global Health Committee. After all, pathogens don’t respect international borders. “Any disease that arises anywhere in the world can end up on our doorstep. We saw that with Ebola, SARS, MERS,” Downes said. “They may be starting somewhere else, but they don’t stay somewhere else. People travel, vectors travel, food travels—and if we are being very myopic in our vision of health, we’re leaving ourselves vulnerable.” The public health laboratory’s approach to disease monitoring changed with the launch of the Global Health Security Agenda in 2014, shifting from a focus on known diseases such as polio and yellow fever toward “a realization that now there are new diseases emerging, and what you really need to have is a system that can recognize the emergence of a new disease, monitor it and control it,” Downes said. As part of that framework, Downes is assisting laboratory officials in Indonesia with strategic planning for a cohesive national laboratory network. Indonesia’s position on an archipelago brings unique geographic challenges. “We’re working with them to connect public health laboratories in an organized way that will assure that emerging health threats are recognized,” she said. Influenza vaccine development also relies on a strong global network, said Erik Reisdorf, MPH, M(ASCP)CM, surveillance and virology team lead at the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene. Through a collaboration between APHL and the CDC to enhance global influenza diagnostic capacity, Reisdorf has trained international laboratory staff to use real- time PCR for faster and more sensitive influenza testing and characterization. Enhancing this capacity at labs around PublicHealthLabs @APHL