The Ministry of Health in collaboration with the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) conducted a three-day workshop on Early Detection and Warning Systems at the Herdmanston Lodge from 4-6 September 2012.
The purpose of the workshop was to strengthen the ability of professionals working in Public Health to investigate and control outbreaks of disease. It aimed at emphasizing the basic techniques of infectious diseases outbreak investigation and how the basic techniques of epidemiology and biostatistics are applied. Twenty-four (24) persons participated in the workshop which was facilitated by Ms. Leslie Edwards, Epidemiology Manager, CAREC, and Mr. Javin Chandrabose, Head of Surveillance, Research and Emergency Preparedness Department, NPHRL.
Dr. Barnett, PAHO/WHO Representative, in her opening remarks welcomed the participants and mentioned that outbreak investigation is a critical function of the national and regional health systems, especially in these times of enhanced international trade and travel, and the need for all countries, including Guyana, to fulfill the requirements of the legally-binding International Health Regulations (2005). Dr. Barnett further mentioned that preventing the international spread of disease is an area of great importance not only for health, but also for national productivity and national development. It is critical that an outbreak in any part of the country be detected as soon as possible, so that it can be contained, and it is equally critical to detect and contain communicable diseases that may be brought into any part of the country from outside. This speaks to the need for developing capacity not only at the central or national level, but also at regional and district levels. Out-of-control communicable diseases can eat away at the three pillars of development: economic, social, and environmental. Persons working in public health, in health facilities, in laboratories, and in other key areas must be aware, alert, and skilled in the prevention, detection, and control of disease outbreaks, secure in the knowledge that each of their tasks contributes to national development.
In concluding, Dr. Barnett mentioned that the training in outbreak investigation is important in reminding us of the multi-disciplinary nature of such investigation, and the need for all stakeholders, not just health workers, to be involved. If other sectors and the public are not made aware of the symptoms and signs of epidemic-prone diseases, such symptoms and signs might not be brought to the attention of the relevant health authorities until it is evident to all – including the international media – that an outbreak is occurring. It is also important that outbreak investigation be done in a timely fashion, and be done well. Accuracy is important - no one wants to declare an outbreak when there is none; nor should there be any attempt to cover up an outbreak that could have national and international ramifications.
Dr. Shamdeo Persuad, Chief Medical Officer, Ministry of Health, in his remarks mentioned that outbreak investigation is a critical to social, economic and environmental development. He further mentioned that people are the centre of development and as a result, health care providers should develop, and deliver appropriate services since the aim is to protect people.
Dr. Shamdeo further stated that there is a need to ensure mechanisms are in place to provide information on Guyana to the International Health Regulations (2005) especially on radio-nuclear and chemical events that could have impact on lives. He urged the participants to collect correct and accurate data and use the information to make decisions for better service delivery. Also, to collaborate with other sectors such as the education sector to address outbreak investigation and to get their communities involved in understanding the importance of addressing disease outbreaks.
At the end of the workshop, participants were given a post-test. An evaluation of the post-test revealed a significant increase in knowledge when compared with the pre-test. The participants also received a training certificate at the end of the workshop.
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