United States Ambassador to Bangladesh Earl Miller inaugurated the First Bangladesh Congress on Epidemiology and Public Health.
Started on March 31, the two-day conference includes in-person and online sessions sharing experiences and scientific lessons from Bangladesh about COVID-19; establishing a global network of public health experts to apply COVID-19 lessons to preparing for future pandemics and outbreaks; and building support for expanding the number of epidemiologists and public health experts in Bangladesh.The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is partnering with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), and the Epidemiology Association of Bangladeshto sponsor this first-ever national conference focused on the vital roles field epidemiology and public health play in saving lives and keeping people healthy from serious diseases in Bangladesh and across the world during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On the opening day of the conference, Ambassador Miller and IEDCR Director Dr. Shirin presented certificates of completion to 10 of graduates of the CDC-funded Field Epidemiology Training Program (FETP).
Since the start of the FETP Bangladesh programme in 2014, 33 Bangladeshi epidemiologists have completed the rigorous two-year training. Over the past year, the trained Fellows have served on Bangladesh’s frontlines in combating COVID-19, usually as the first people on the ground doing case investigations, contact tracing, and other measures to both understand and control the spread of the deadly virus.
Over the course of the two-day conference, epidemiologists, young researchers, public health professionals, faculty of community medicine from Bangladesh and other countries, representatives from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), and other government offices, local medical associations and medical education sector, international organisations, including the World Health Organisation (WHO), and the donor community, will share experiences in the field of public health and scientific lessons from Bangladesh about COVID-19, other outbreaks, such as diphtheria, dengue, influenza, cholera, hepatitis, etc., and growing health challenges, including environmental health, mental health, heart disease, and toxicology.
Conference attendees will also establish a global network of public health experts to apply COVID-19 lessons to preparing for future pandemics and outbreaks and discuss the importance of expanding the number of epidemiologists andpublic health experts in Bangladesh.
Similar scientific conferences on epidemiology and public health are held annually at the CDC headquarters in Atlanta and in many other countries; this year’s first national Congress is intended to become a biennial meeting.Speaking at the Congress, Ambassador Miller praised the epidemiologists and public health experts who continue to serve as Bangladesh’s frontline of defense to combat COVID-19.
Highlighting the importance of Congress, he said “I am here to support the efforts of many to give greater focus to the fields of epidemiology and public health both globally and here in Bangladesh. The pandemic has taught us many things. One of those things is policy and action are only as effective as the science and data they are built upon. We can promote mask wearing and social distancing, as we are doing here today, because we know the science and data tells us it works.”
Vaccination should be promoted because the data from the vaccine trials and post vaccination surveillance proves it to be safe and effective, he said.
“None of this is possible without epidemiologists and public health experts … We all want answers to challenging public health questions [about COVID-19] … and we turn to our epidemiologists and public health scientists to piece together the information and draw conclusions just like a detective does at a crime scene. It is not an easy job. But we can no longer deny it is a vitally important one.”
Speaking of the importance of increasing the number of epidemiologists and public health experts in Bangladesh to meet the WHO and CDC recommended levels of a minimum of one medical epidemiologist for every 200,000 persons, CDC Bangladesh Country Director Dr Michael Friedman said this equates to a minimum of 850 fully trained and employed medical epidemiologists for Bangladesh.
“We are proud of the remarkable achievements of the CDC-funded FETP since its establishment in 2014, but more must be done. The Government of Bangladesh and international partners need to scale up the programs like the FETP and create Ministry of Health posts in each district for these medical professionals to reach the needed target of 850 fully trained and employed local field epidemiologists.”