Mr Bounkong Syhavong, left, and Prof. John Mackenzie at the meeting in Vientiane on Feb 24
(KPL) Developing and retaining a trained public health workforce has become a major challenge, particularly at sub-national levels, an expert has said.
In some areas, legislative frameworks and processes to support key public health functions are yet to formalize and thus need to be developed, a meeting was told in Vientiane on Friday.
Prof. John Mackenzie, who led the International Health Regulations (IHR) Joint External Evaluation Team that was in Laos for a meeting on IHR Joint External Evaluation, said that threats to health security would continue, and although the Lao PDR has made excellent progress in working towards IHR (2005) requirements, it still faced challenges in fully meeting its obligations.
He noted that the National Work Plan for Emerging Infectious Diseases and Public Health Emergencies had been developed, but required regular and sustainable financing in order to be implemented effectively.
“Communication and information sharing across sectors functions well during emergencies, but should also be improved for routine purposes between events,” said Prof. John Mackenzie.
The participants of the three-day meeting said that it was vital to empower the National IHR Focal Point to perform their mandated communication and coordination functions, especially across relevant sectors as cross-sectoral collaboration could also be enhanced in priority areas through approaches including One Health that address antimicrobial resistance, zoonoses, food safety and novel disease emergence.
They recommended the Lao government to revise the National Work Plan for Emerging Infectious Diseases and Public Health Emergencies to take into consideration the priority actions recommended by the JEE mission, increase and ensure sustainable financing for health security, implement the National Health Workforce Strategy 2016-2020, and ensure the strengthening of a health security workforce, including public health and veterinary field epidemiologists.
Also recommended by the participants were to implement functional measures for multiple sectors to collaborate, coordinate and communicate on preparedness and response to all public health emergencies, foster a culture of view, learning and continuous improvement in the areas of health security including outbreak reviews, regular exercises and IHR Joint External Evaluations, and review and formalize draft laws, policies and SOPs related to health security with due consideration of international obligations.
“This week the international team and Lao colleagues developed approximately 60 priority action recommendations. The evaluation incorporates the knowledge gained from previous evaluations in a multi-sectoral approach and can serve Lao PDR as a basis for national planning for the way forward,” said Prof. John Mackenzie.