South African Regional Global Diseases Detection Program

The Global Disease Detection Program (GDD), of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is aimed at strengthening the global capacity to rapidly detect, accurately identify and contain infectious disease threats that occur internationally.

The Division of Global Disease Detection and Emergency Response, which houses GDD has been designated by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a Collaborating Center for Implementation of the International Health Regulations (IHR), National Surveillance and Response Capacity.

South Africa was selected in July 2010, to be the eighth Global Disease Detection Regional Centre. Currently, GDD has activities in China, Egypt, Guatemala, India, Kazakhstan, Kenya and Thailand.

The South African Regional Global Disease Detection Centre (SARGDDC) is the only Centre in the world that was initiated with a co-director leadership model. Dr Natalie Mayet (South Africa) and Dr Rachel Eidex (United States) were appointed in the latter half of 2011. Dr Seymour Williams took on the role as the US GDD Co-director in February 2015 and Dr Timothy Doyle assumed the role as the Co-Director in June 2017.

The central focus of SARGDDC is building capacity for emerging health threats through the six core capacities of the Global Disease Detection Program that include:

  • Emerging infectious disease detection and response
  • Field epidemiology training
  • Pandemic influenza preparedness and response
  • Strengthening laboratory capacity
  • Zoonotic disease investigation and control
  • Risk communication and emergency response.

SARGDDC integrates surveillance and laboratory expertise to improve public health throughout the region and integrates its functions within the various programs of the National Institute for Communicable Disease (NICD) and the National Department of Health (NDOH).

It is a conduit and a platform that facilitates the fast-tracking of projects of mutual interest through Research and Non-Research Co-operative Agreements.

The existing influenza program activities are aimed at building strong regional partnerships for the detection, surveillance, and response to seasonal, pandemic, and zoonotic influenza in South Africa and selected countries of the Southern Africa Development Community.

The South Africa Field Epidemiology Training Program (SAFETP), officially launched in May 2006, is designed to train field epidemiologists to support evidence based decision making. The program provides epidemiologic training and mentoring to post-graduate fellows to augment the quality of service they provide to the National and Provincial Departments of Health and offers epidemiology classroom training together with field projects that allow fellows to transfer learning into the workplace and provide service to their respective institutions. The program also provide short-course training in field epidemiology targeting provincial and district level surveillance staff.

SARGDDC was instrumental in establishing the Emergency Operations Centre in October 2014 at the National Institute for Communicable Disease, on behalf of the NDOH, aimed at responding to infectious disease outbreaks of public health significance.

In addition, SARGDD has supported the NDOH in strengthening capacities around IHR and supported the training of Provincial Communicable Disease Coordinators in 2012. There have also been a number of training sessions conducted in SADC related to influenza surveillance.

SARGDDC had the support of a scientific writer and a biostatistician, who supported the SAFETP residents and a number of principle investigators with scientific writing and statistical analysis. Interactive training workshops were provided, covering everything from formatting tables and figures to scientific writing style, and the process to choose an appropriate journal for publication.

Since 2012 SARGDDC has facilitated and sponsored 12 training sessions attended by 189 participants from the NICD, NDOH, Provincial and District Departments of Health. The topics for training included:

  • Africa’s first Joint Law Enforcement and Public Health Workshop
  • Health Policy and Decision Analysis
  • Effective Communication to Diverse Audiences
  • A series of Scientific Writing Workshops

SARGDDC continues to support the re-engineering of the Notifiable Medical Condition Surveillance System and facilitated discussions with the NDOH representatives, the NICD, the National Health Information Repository Data representatives aimed at resource optimisation. SARGDD is also actively involved in driving the Malaria Elimination agenda for South Africa.

SARGDDC contributed to the development of the Social and Environmental Impact Assessment document required for the National Public Health Institute for South Africa (NAPHISA) Bill and continues to support the development of the Business Case for the establishment of NAPHISA after the passing of the NAPHISA Bill by cabinet in March 2017.

The NICD is a member of the International Association of National Public Health Institutes (IANPHI) and Dr Mayet was elected as the INAPHI-Africa Chairperson at the annual meeting in China in October 2016. IANPHI-Africa has 21 members in the network and activities are underway aimed at expanding the network and strengthening public health institutional capacity across Africa. In this capacity, we continue to support the development of the Africa CDC core strategic objectives and are involved with priority activities listed by the Regional Collaborating Centre in Zambia.