First of all, welcome to the 19th edition of Inform’ACTION.
In this issue, we have a number of articles highlighting the importance of collecting and analysing “real-time” epidemiological data to facilitate and accelerate the response to possible epidemics. This is even more important when the epidemics affect countries with limited response resources, which is usually the case for most of the Pacific Islands.
The title “real-time data is crucial” refers to the conclusion of the article “Palau Ministry of Health Surveillance Experience and Strategy during the 9th Festival of Pacific Arts”, written by Dr Julie A. Erb-Alvarez, Dr Stevenson Kuartei and Dr Paul Heiderschiedt. We must commend our colleagues from Palau for this valuable article, and more importantly the very good work they have done during the 9th Festival of Pacific Arts.
Regular, up-to-date data and user-friendly information systems are definitively a very important factor to respond efficiently to communicable diseases. In this regard, you will find an article from Richard Duncan, WHO Suva, describing the current trial with email-based reporting for the hospital-based active surveillance (for acute flaccid paralysis, neonatal tetanus and acute fever and rash illnesses) in the Pacific Islands.
All those systems can be more effective in operation if the health professionals are equipped with good tools and capacities. This is precisely the subject of the project “Building ICT capacities for public health surveillance”, coordinated by public health specialists and ICT experts from SPC. This project is described in this issue.
Beside this new project, PPHSN partners, like PIHOA/CDC, the Fiji School of Medicine (with the School of Public Health and Primary Care), SPC and WHO continue to provide training courses in field epidemiology and outbreak investigation to Pacific Island health professionals. A summary of the last training course held in Majuro, Republic of the Marshall Islands, in September 2004 is provided also in the bulletin. We have also included the schedule of courses offered by the Pacific Paramedical Training Centre (PPTC) in 2005, keeping in mind that strengthening (public health) laboratory services remains a priority of the PPHSN.
The reference to “real time”, reminds us of “real threats”, especially pandemic influenza. Therefore, Dr Seini Kupu, who has been working all year on this important issue, has contributed to this edition an article describing her view on influenza preparedness in the Pacific Islands.
Although the project is still only partially achieved, we thought it worthwhile sharing with you the preliminary findings of the collaborative research project on the incidence and public health impact of leptospirosis in the Pacific.
As usual, this issue includes updates on meetings and some briefs regarding new, recent or future publications.
The supplement is a presentation of our SPC’s Public Health Surveillance and Communicable Disease Control section, including an overview of the assistance we can offer to PPHSN members. We therefore invite you to send us your requests, comments and suggestions. We would also like to invite every PPHSN allied members to share the same kind of information with the network through the columns of the next issues of Inform’ACTION.
We take this opportunity to extend our appreciation to all our partners and donors for their contributions to our section’s activities and the invaluable support to the PPHSN: France and NZAID for the PREPARE project, France and AusAID for the Regional HIV/AIDS Project, ADB for the Emergency Regional Support to Address the Outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Taiwan/ROC for their continuous support and the US Centers for Disease Control for the bioterrorism-related funding.
Many thanks also to the contributors to this issue of Inform’ACTION and the new ones to come!
Our best wishes to all the PPHSN members for 2005.