Sunday, January 29, 2023

Botswana creates Health Institute for disease surveillance, detection

The Ministry of Health (MoH) has established the Botswana Public Health Institute (BPHI), which will be crucial in strengthening Botswana’s diagnostic capacities to detect new and emerging public health threats.

The launch of the institute comes at a time when some national health agencies have warned that Botswana needs to develop effective surveillance mechanisms to ensure the early detection of public health threats. At the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic in Botswana, the country did not have effective diagnostic capacity which resulted in the country sending some samples to countries such as South Africa.

However, the minister of health Dr. Edwin Dikoloti indicated that Botswana had learnt a lesson from the Covid-19 pandemic. “Whereas many lessons were learnt during this time, the most important one was that health systems should always be ready to respond to any emergency even without notice,” he said, adding that BPHI will be instrumental in strengthening laboratory and diagnostic capacities to detect new and emerging threats.

Dr. Dikoloti also said BPHI will save Batswana lives from other future public health threats and position Botswana to participate both locally, regionally and internationally through contributing to growing scientific knowledge and evidence. “BPHI as a scientifically driven institute will consolidate public health function to harness and promote local research and education,” says Dr. Dikoloti”.

The BPHI will concentrate on laboratory research, surveillance, and emergency response once it is fully functioning.

Grace Muzila, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, stated that 8 million has been set aside for this fiscal year, and that the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Centres of Disease Control (CDC) will also assist. “Even though we have 8 million as budget under the government purse, we have support from organisations like WHO and CDC,” says Muzila.

CDC as a public health agency will support BPHI by updating the public health priority illness lists and the Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response system; evaluating lab capabilities at the subnational level, evaluating research capacity at the national and subnational levels, revising and creating a priority agenda for operational research in public health, and carrying out threat and hazard identification and risk assessments.

At the start of the Covid-19 outbreak in Botswana, some people criticised the government for rushing to implement reactive rather than proactive measures.

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