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Data For Health Initiative National Public Health Bulletins Vitally Important

In 2015, Bloomberg Philanthropies launched the Data for Health Initiative(D4H) to help governments build sustainable capacity to gather and use scientific data to guide decision making and policy development. One part of the initiative, called the Data Impact Program, aims to ensure health policy makers use reliable, carefully analyzed data to make informed decisions.

A component of the Data Impact Program involves the development of National Public Health Bulletins (PHBs). A national PHB serves as a voice of the government, alerting the public and professionals to public health threats, providing updates on the control of infectious diseases, and providing clinical recommendations and other guidance. As a senior program officer for the CDC Foundation, I support the D4H and the Data Impact program. As part of this work, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is providing technical assistance to teams of PHB editors in Bangladesh, Colombia, Ghana, Tanzania and Zambia.

There are many challenges for the editors to develop PHBs in these countries, including limited resources and guidelines for this work. There are also limited opportunities for the teams to share knowledge gained from experience.

To address these challenges, and to help promote a community of practice among the editors, the CDC Foundation recently convened a workshop for the PHB teams to share knowledge and experiences on developing a bulletin. The workshop had three primary objectives, including promoting a sense of community among participants; identifying the information needs and resources specific to the development of a PHB; and identifying forums for communicating needs and sharing resources.

A team from CDC helped lead the workshop, provided extensive technical assistance and gave a presentation on best practices for their Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) publication. It was great to hear from CDC’s Charlotte Kent, PhD, MPH, acting editor-in-chief and executive editor for MMWR. Often referred to as the “voice of CDC,” the MMWR is the U.S. PHB, thus serving as the agency’s primary vehicle for scientific publication of timely, reliable, accurate and objective public health information. With over 50 years’ history, the lessons learned by the MMWR will serve as a great support tool for the editors.

The theme of the workshop was “Your greatest resources are each other.” It was incredible to see the editors interact and learn from each other in this workshop as they continue to launch and develop their own countries’ programs.

According to Raymond Hamoonga, managing editor of The Health Press in Zambia, “I am privileged to assemble all of the various components of producing the bulletin, ensuring data is turned into policy, interventions and public health lessons.”

When asked about the workshop, Hamoonga said, “This workshop has been very interactive and everyone has been very engaged. It’s great learning and appreciating the various perspectives from the participating countries.”

Support for D4H is provided by Bloomberg Philanthropies in partnership with the Australian government. As we enter year four of the initiative, current work is focused on developing institutionalization plans for all components and programs as a means to help 1.2 billion people in 20 countries live healthier, longer lives.

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