SPC: Pacific Region’s Public Health Surveillance Network Praised

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Noumea, New Caledonia – Representatives of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and Pacific Island countries and territories were very proud to hear an international expert recognising the value of the long-established Pacific Public Health Surveillance Network (PPHSN) during an international Forum that took place earlier this month in La Reunion.
‘For me, PPHSN is the first network that worked and it inspired us when forming the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network,’ said Dr Mike Ryan, Former Director of WHO Global Alert and Response Team, Professor of International Health at University College Dublin and one of the keynote speakers at the Forum.

The 1st International Forum on Public Health Surveillance and Response in island territories and countries gathered over 300 actors of health surveillance in human and animal health from the Indian Ocean, the Caribbean, the Pacific and the French Mediterranean regions.  

‘We were very pleased to hear Dr Ryan’s statement and all PPHSN members from Pacific Island ministries of health, regional organisations and training institutions can be very proud as well,’ said Dr Yvan Souarès, Deputy Director of SPC’s Public Health Division and one of the founders of PPHSN.

‘PPHSN, which was created in 1996, has established robust services to support national and regional surveillance and response to epidemics and other public health emergencies that are really up to date, according to our exchanges with our counterparts working in the other island regions.’

During the three days (from 11–13 June), 70 oral presentations and 60 posters created the opportunity to discuss many topics: different forms of surveillance, early warning and response systems, the development of e-health tools, emerging diseases, new challenges and opportunities in the field of vector control, and the One Health concept, combining animal health and human health.

‘All the presentations were of high scientific level and it was very interesting to share our knowledge, experience and views with those of our counterparts from the Indian Ocean and the Caribbean, as they face similar problems specific to an island context,’ said Dr Salanieta Saketa from Fiji, who was part of the Pacific delegation.

This Forum has been a real success, both for the participants and the organisers: Agence de Santé Océan Indien, the Indian Ocean Commission, and the French Institute for Public Health Surveillance, with the support of the French Development Agency.

SPC’s Public Health Division is committed to pursue the collaboration, and build up on commonalities (for economies of scale) and differences (expert resources) among Islands’ public health networks, and has expressed an interest in hosting the second edition of the Forum in 2015.

For more information, please contact Christelle Lepers, Surveillance Information and Communication Officer at SPC – Email: christellel@spc.int – Tél. (687) 26 01 81.

Background information:

The PPHSN is a voluntary network of countries and organisations dedicated to the promotion of public health surveillance and appropriate response to the health challenges of 22 Pacific Island countries and territories. Its first priorities are outbreak-prone diseases and public health emergencies in general. It was created in 1996 under the joint auspices of SPC and WHO. SPC is the focal point of the PPHSN Coordinating Body.

PPHSN comprises five essential service networks to monitor and respond to public health emergencies occurring or threatening the region: (1) the Pacific Syndromic Surveillance System for outbreak detection, (2) PacNet for alert and communication, (3) LabNet for verification and identification of pathogens, (4) EpiNet, multi-disciplinary national and regional teams for preparedness and response to epidemics, and (5) PICNet for infection control.

The Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) is a technical collaboration of existing institutions and networks who pool human and technical resources for the rapid identification, confirmation and response to outbreaks of international importance. It was created in 2000 by the World Health Organization.