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Past and recent disease outbreaks have shown that infectious diseases continue to affect lives of people while also representing social, economic, and (inter)national security threats that can quickly evolve into global health crises. There is an urgent need for better local outbreak and pandemic preparedness in Africa solutions that help detect, forecast and model and respond to outbreaks.

Outbreak preparedness is frequently neglected in the agenda of many African countries. In the wake of a high impact outbreak, many governments go through an initial phase of panic, followed by reactive temporal measures to improve on preparedness and then a phase of neglect in maintaining the prevention of the next epidemic on their public health agenda. For Africa to maintain the prosperity of its member states through protecting the health of their populations, pandemic preparedness has to be a top priority in the development strategy. One way to go about this is to set up and establish better disease surveillance platforms such as a Pan-African data platform for disease surveillance. The use of data generated for surveillance has a huge potential to advance epidemic preparedness in Africa.

The Africa CDC as new continental public health agency is well positioned to protect the health of the continent by supporting the implementation of innovative and sustainable data sharing surveillance platforms that can help in immediate outbreak response and also better prepare for future outbreaks by predicting their occurrences.

The Future Health Threats Initiative 2019, hosted by the Praesens Foundation in Leuven, Belgium, on January 28-29th, has championed interdisciplinary partners and brought together the best in class, who are fostering innovation, digital transformation and bioinformatics in order to have a better overall picture of health and information at hand. The program focused on how to generate high-quality data-based information and turn these into newly gained insights and knowledge for better public health decision-making, that can have a patient impact and ultimately save lives. Building on the successful pilot study in partnership with the Institut Pasteur de Dakar, where a Mobile Biosafety Laboratory was tested as an integrated solution, embedded in the local health system and proved to reinforce the capacity-building, this scalable and proven model now offers various opportunities.

The Future Health Threats Initiative 2019:

Public-private cooperation to strengthen health security in Africa with a focus on Bio-IT & Genomics

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