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IDASH Fellowship Launches in South America

The IDASH South America fellowship cohort

On June 17, the International Training and Education Center for Health (I-TECH) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) South America Office, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health in Peru (MINSA), launched the Informatics and Data Science for Health (IDASH) fellowship in South America. The program was first implemented in the Eastern Europe and Central Asia with support from WHO EURO, with the first cohort graduating in April 2024, and adapted to the South American context.

The 12-month training will focus on developing a health workforce that is well-trained in digital health and understands health informatics and data system requirements to support public health functions. Thirty-four fellows from government agencies from Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, and Peru are together in Lima, Peru, for two weeks for the first in-person workshop.

During the opening ceremony, Peru’s Vice Minister of Health Ricardo Peña Sánchez and Secretary of Government and Digital Transformation César Vílchez Inga reaffirmed the importance of this initiative to support advancing digital strategies for health in Peru, including interoperability of information systems. The development of a skilled workforce in health informatics and data science is also aligned with PAHO’s efforts to advance digital health in the region, as highlighted by Sebastian García, Director of the Evidence and Intelligence for Health Action Department of the Pan American Health Organization (EIH/PAHO) during the opening.

During the second week of the in-person workshop, fellows will be joined by mentors from each participating country. The support from experienced mentors will enhance their learning experience and the application of the knowledge and skills acquired during the program.

Valdirene Montalvão, Information Systems Technician at the Brazilian Ministry of Health, has high expectations for her participation in the program. Through IDASH, “I will be able to learn and expand my skills to contribute more effectively to the process of monitoring, managing and evaluating for public health decision-making,” she says.

First Cohort of IDASH Fellowship Graduates

IDASH team members and graduating fellows

On April 19, the first 20 fellows of the Informatics and Data Science for Health (IDASH) program, part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-funded Integrated Next-generation Surveillance in Global Health: Translation to Action (INSIGHT) project, successfully completed their fellowship and graduated at a ceremony hosted in Istanbul.

The event included a final in-person workshop and a certificate ceremony, celebrating 12 months of intensive learning and collaboration. The fellowship program included in-person workshops, mentorship, and communities of practice to support applied learning, as well as completion of capstone projects that aligned with respective countries’ health priorities.

“IDASH has been a novel training approach to bridge the gap between public health informatics and data science to improve population health,” says Jennifer Gilvydis, INSIGHT Project Director. “The fellowship is a unique blend of applied learning and supports multidisciplinary workforce development.”

The final workshop covered topics such as evaluating surveillance system performance, public health informatics communication, developing effective poster presentations, and maintaining connections with fellow program graduates. Fellows presented their capstone projects, showcasing the application of newly acquired  skills and knowledge.

Each interdisciplinary country team included members from Ministry of Health (MOH) units responsible for digital health and disease surveillance and response, such as mid-senior level epidemiologists, informaticians, data scientists, IT specialists, and public health policy personnel. This diverse mix of disciplines was integral to the fellows’ experience and the success of their capstone projects.

“What was unique [about this fellowship] was that this scholarship included the integration of systems as well as public health and technology,” says Nuraiym Zhumakunova, a fellow and epidemiologist with the Department of Disease Prevention and State Sanitary-Epidemiological Surveillance in Kyrgyzstan. Her team was working on a unified platform for disease surveillance data analysis.

“Overall, [the program] was good because we understood the work as analysts and as IT specialists,” she continues.

Stacey Lissit, Senior Technical Advisor for the IDASH fellowship, agrees that collaboration across disciplines was key to the program’s success: “The fact that IDASH brought together professionals from disciplines that may not typically collaborate and communicate with each other – public health/epidemiologist and IT/Data scientists – was an integral part of the fellowship,” she says. “It enabled fellows to get out of their silos and understand the priorities, needs, and ‘language’ of their colleagues, and see how communication and collaboration are so vital to achieving the desired public health outcomes. The relationships and community that was built among the fellows from different countries was an invaluable component of the program.”

The fellowship not only enriched the participating professionals but also had tangible benefits for their agencies and organizations. “We trained health workers on how to maintain quality data,” said Farhod Akbarov, First Deputy CEO at IT-Med LLC under the MOH of Uzbekistan, whose team was working on reporting, mapping, and forecasting of infectious disease. “These are already new skills for us. We can already filter, sort, and show better quality data.”

As the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated, robust information systems that can collect, analyze, interpret, and act on high-quality data are critical to public health. The IDASH fellowship program aims to close knowledge gaps in the global public health workforce, better preparing regions for future health threats.

The fellowship program is set to launch in five countries in South America this June, expanding its reach and impact on global health initiatives.

I-TECH Initiates IDASH in South America with Representatives from 5 Countries

A group discusses the adaptation of the IDASH training model and structure, including the mentoring model. Photo courtesy of Maíra Pessoa/FVS-RCP.

Para mais informações sobre o encontro, em português, acesse Fundação de Vigilância em Saúde do Amazonas – Dra. Rosemary Costa Pinto.

At a February 5-8 meeting in Bogotá, the International Training and Education Center for Health (I-TECH) convened with global health leaders from 5 countries to inform the adaptation of the Informatics and Data Science for Health (IDASH) training program to South American contexts.

IDASH–part of I-TECH’s Integrated Next-generation Surveillance in Global Health: Translation to Action (INSIGHT) project–is a training program for current and future leaders in public health that aims to strengthen regional capacity to use public health information and data systems to improve health outcomes at the population level, detect and respond effectively to threats to public health, and promote health equity.

The objectives of the intensive, weeklong Executive Committee meeting included identifying priorities and key capabilities; adapting the structure of the IDASH course to local needs as well as government priorities and initiatives; and identifying government and academic resources to support teaching.

IDASH South America Director Fernanda Freistadt addresses the participants on Day 1 of the meeting. Photo courtesy of Maíra Pessoa/FVS-RCP.

In a a website post of IDASH partner Fundação de Vigilância em Saúde do Amazonas – Dra. Rosemary Costa Pinto, INSIGHT Regional Director for South America Fernanda Freistadt said: “This initiative has the potential to create health professionals who have advanced knowledge in both epidemiology and information technology, an area in which there is a great lack today. Furthermore, IDASH can strengthen technical relations and collaborations in the area of ​​surveillance between countries.”

The Executive Committee Meeting included representatives from Colombia, Brazil, Paraguay, Peru, and Ecuador, as well as international partners including Georgia’s National Center for Disease Control and Public Health (which has been an important partner in the IDASH training program for Eastern Europe/Central Asia). It is anticipated that the South America expansion implementation to happen later this year.

IDASH Fellowship Meets in Kazakhstan for In-Person, and Virtual, Workshop

IDASH fellows engage in group work during an October workshop in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Photo credit: Jamey Gentry/CDC.

Last month, the International Training and Education Center for Health (I-TECH), in collaboration with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and with support from the World Health Organization (WHO), facilitated the second of three in-person workshops for the Informatics and Data Science for Health (IDASH) fellowship.

Held in Almaty, Kazakhstan, the workshop marked the mid-point of the 12-month fellowship—and a chance for participants to come together to advance their ability to apply public health informatics and data science concepts and approaches.

“This workshop included a lot of hands-on practical exercises, and it was fun to observe how engaged the participants were with these activities and with the learning in general,” said Stacey Lissit, MPH, MS, Senior Technical Advisor for the IDASH program.

Content included all things data (quality, cleaning, analysis, visualization, governance, security, privacy, and confidentiality); interoperability; project management; business process analysis; and systems architecture. Sessions were a mix of didactic lecture, small group activities to practice application of skills and concepts, peer feedback, and guided hands-on learning in R and PowerBI. Over the course of the two weeks, participants collaborated  to develop a data dashboard, a database schema, and a data quality workplan.

The first cohort of the IDASH fellowship, with I-TECH instructors. Photo credit: Jamey Gentry/CDC.

The current fellowship, launched in April 2023, comprises a cohort of four participants each from Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan—a total of 20 fellows. Each four-person team includes a mix of mid-senior level epidemiologists, informaticians, data scientists, IT, and public health policy personnel.

Fellow Zhanibek Yerubayev, Director of Public Health Emergency Operations at the Kazakhstan Ministry of Health’s National Center of Public Health, says the team mix is an integral part of IDASH’s impact. “[IDASH] connects people from the public health side with people from the IT side,” he says. “These people have a lot of projects to do [together], but they are not always well connected, and they do not always understand each other well.”

“It was exciting to see the relationships and community that are being built through the IDASH Fellowship – both within the country teams where fellows can collaborate closely with colleagues outside of their typical ‘work silos,’ and across countries within the region,” said Lissit. “That peer learning element is such an important part of the fellowship.”

And all efforts were made to ensure multi-directional collaboration. The Ukrainian team did not receive permission to travel to the workshop, so I-TECH made arrangements for them to participate via Zoom. A location was identified in southwest Ukraine where the team could  attend the workshop together remotely, experience fewer daily safety issues related to the war, and avoid the distractions of being in their own workplace. A simultaneous translator for the Ukrainian language was provided on the Zoom call.

While remote participation is not ideal, the Ukraine team was able to attend and hear most of the workshop sessions and engage in the group work in meaningful ways. “A lot of effort went into setting up the technology that enabled this participation,” said Lissit. “At one point the Ukraine team was participating in a peer feedback activity with two country teams in Almaty—there were live cameramen, screen sharing, Zoom translators…and it worked mostly seamlessly!”

Fellow Durbek Aliyev, Deputy CEO at IT-Med LLC, which works under the Uzbekistan Ministry of Health, was especially appreciative of the chance to learn from a wide range experts across the region. “The digitalization of health care cannot be done by only one country itself,” said Aliyev. “The advantage of IDASH over other programs is that it brings [together] specialists from neighbor countries. We are talking to each other….We are learning from each other directly.”

And these relationships will be a lasting benefit of the program, he continued. “IDASH is a place where we can establish very good networking with other countries,” said Aliyev. “Any time I can contact them and learn from their expertise.”

IDASH is a project within the Integrated Next-Generation Surveillance in Global Health: Translation to Action (INSIGHT) program. In addition to acquiring new skills and knowledge in public health informatics and data science, IDASH country teams are developing and will implement a collaborative team project that demonstrates key competencies and is aligned with their country’s needs and priorities.

 

 

 

Triple Border Disease Surveillance in South America

Population movement, limited public health infrastructure, different country reporting systems, and poor environmental conditions increase incidence of certain infectious diseases across borders. Communities living in border areas are at increased vulnerability for and worse outcomes from infectious diseases such as COVID-19 and other priority pathogens.

I-TECH, as part of the Integrated Next-generation Surveillance in Global Health: Translation to Action (INSIGHT to Action) project, is implementing a cross border surveillance strengthening program  to improve the detection, monitoring, investigation, and response to public health threats in two triple border regions in South America.

Strengthening Public Health Disease Surveillance

The Integrated Next-generation Surveillance in Global Health: Translation to Action (INSIGHT to Action) project is a five-year cooperative agreement with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to assess and strengthen global public health surveillance systems using a One Health approach. The INSIGHT project leverages the capacity building strengths of I-TECH and the One Health disease surveillance expertise of the Center for One Health Research, with a model of engaging local institutions and experts in countries where it will be working in a shared partnership model.

In its first year, the INSIGHT project focused on an in depth assessment of the public health surveillance systems in Peru, in partnership with experts from University of Peru Cayetano Heredia. The completed assessment has now catalyzed the formation of a technical working group with representation across multiple government agencies that will work with other stakeholders including the World Bank at implementing measures to strengthen regional and country capacity to detect, respond to, control, and prevent emerging disease threats to health security.

The INSIGHT surveillance work in Latin America is also now expanding to involve Paraguay, Brazil, Argentina, and Colombia.

IDASH TRAINING PROGRAM

In 2023, the INSIGHT program launched the Informatics and Data Science for Health (IDASH) training program in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. The goals of IDASH are to enhance capacity to create and use public health information systems that enable the capture, management, analysis, dissemination, and use of reliable, timely information to improve population-level health outcomes, as well as strengthen regional capacity to effectively respond to future global health challenges.

UKRAINE RECOVERY

Building on lessons learned from the Peru assessment work, the INSIGHT team is now working with the Ukraine Public Health Center on expanding sentinel and event based surveillance systems in Ukraine and strengthening the capacity of the public health system for emergency management of chemical biological, radiological, and nuclear threats. The INSIGHT team has organized a workshop in Poland bringing together key principals from the Ukraine ministry of health and local health departments to accelerate the pace of activities in support of public health in the country. INSIGHT is coordinating technical working groups on Early Warning and Response, Public Health Emergency Management, and Surveillance strengthening.

Public Health Surveillance

I-TECH works in collaboration with key stakeholders, including communities, government entities, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to strengthen and implement surveillance programs focused on emerging disease threats, HIV recent infection, birth defects surveillance, and hospital acquired infections in sub-Saharan Africa. Eastern Europe, Asia, and South America.

In Malawi, I-TECH has supported the implementation of an active hospital-based birth surveillance system at four high-volume facilities in Malawi since 2016, and beginning in 2019, I-TECH began implementing recent HIV infection surveillance in April 2019.

In 2022, as part of the Integrated Next-generation Surveillance in Global Health: Translation to Action (INSIGHT to Action) project, I-TECH, the Peruvian Ministry of Health, the Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, and CDC collaborated on a situational analysis to assess areas for potential strengthening of the Peruvian disease surveillance systems. In 2023, the INSIGHT for Action project launched the Triple Border Disease Surveillance Strengthening Program.

In Kenya, the I-TECH Kenya office is working with CDC on implementing surveillance for hospital acquired infections (HAI) in low resource settings, with a focus on surgical site infection surveillance.

Program Highlights

Global Avian Flu Surveillance in Georgia
Migrating waterfowl from Asia, Africa, and Europe intersect in Georgia, which increases the potential for novel avian-origin influenzas to emerge ...
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Strengthening Public Health Disease Surveillance
The Integrated Next-generation Surveillance in Global Health: Translation to Action (INSIGHT to Action) project is a five-year cooperative agreement with the ...
Read More
COVID-19 Sentinel Surveillance in Malawi
Despite establishing  COVID-19 monitoring measures within the existing routine national surveillance system and significant efforts to conduct testing, contact tracing, ...
Read More
Triple Border Disease Surveillance in South America
Population movement, limited public health infrastructure, different country reporting systems, and poor environmental conditions increase incidence of certain infectious diseases ...
Read More
HIV Drug Resistance Surveillance in Malawi
The World Health Organization recommends countries routinely implement nationally representative HIV drug resistance (HIVDR) surveys among people infected with HIV ...
Read More
Global Health Security Agenda in Kenya
I-TECH Kenya’s Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA)-funded programs aim to advance the GHSA goals of preventing , detecting, and responding ...
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Field Epidemiology Training Program in Malawi
The Frontline Field Epidemiology Training Program (Frontline FETP) enhances the capacity of HIV and AIDS surveillance and strengthens health systems ...
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HIV Recency Surveillance in Malawi
The International Training and Education Center for Health (I-TECH), in collaboration with the Malawian Ministry of Health (MOH) and the ...
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Birth Defects Surveillance in Malawi
Malawi is one of first countries in Southeast Africa to respond to the World Health Organization’s call for robust birth ...
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National COVID-19 Emergency Response in Malawi
In collaboration with the Malawi Ministry of Health (MOH) and Centers for the Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), I-TECH has ...
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One Health

Human disruptions to natural systems are causing climate change and other major environmental upheavals including biodiversity loss, zoonotic disease emergence, toxic pollution, heat emergencies, and flooding that will have major impacts on the health of human and animal populations. To reflect the intersectionality and interconnectedness of the health of humans, animals, and the shared (and rapidly changing) environment, I-TECH partners with the Center for One Health Research in designing and implementing programs that use the One Health approach to prevent, detect, and respond to emerging disease threats. I-TECH’s One Health approach focuses on strengthening disease surveillance systems and laboratories to detect and assess new infectious disease threats, as well as detecting “sentinel” cases of disease in humans and animals that are indicators of health impacts of environmental change.

In 2022, I-TECH formed the Global One Health Group to support the prevention, detection, and response to emerging disease threats throughout the world. By leveraging the strength and expertise of the University of Washington Center for One Health Research and other UW partners, I-TECH is providing effective training, technical assistance, and laboratory services to support capacity and systems strengthening in affected communities. The Global One Health Group includes experts in zoonotic and other infectious diseases, antimicrobial resistance, public health, animal health, environmental health, and implementation science.

Program Highlights

Strengthening Public Health Disease Surveillance

The Integrated Next-generation Surveillance in Global Health: Translation to Action (INSIGHT to Action) project is a five-year cooperative agreement with the ...
Read More

COVID-19

I-TECH provides technical assistance on the prevention and control of COVID-19 that ranges from training health care workers and facilities in infection prevention and control best practices to supporting the development of national policies and standard operating procedures. During the COVID-19 pandemic, I-TECH continues to work with ministries of health and other key stakeholders to ensure that laboratories, health facilities, and clinics are implementing and being trained in procedures to prevent and control the spread of COVID-19.

In addition to directly supporting COVID-19 prevention and control efforts, I-TECH has been working with governments and the ministries of health to ensure the continuity of HIV care and treatment by supporting clinicians via telephone consultations, developing messaging campaigns to connect people living with HIV (PLHIV) with pharmacies and clinics stocked with antiretroviral therapy (ART) medications, and helping PLHIV form community ART refill groups.

Program Highlights

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I-TECH’s Samantha Dolan Wins Gates Foundation Grand Challenges Explorations Award

Samantha Dolan, a Monitoring and Evaluation Advisor with the Kenya team at the International Training and Education Center for Health (I-TECH), has received the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Grand Challenges Explorations award. Along with I-TECH Kenya’s Ian Njeru and I-TECH PI Peter Rabinowitz, professor in the Department of Global Health, Dolan has been awarded $100,000 to conduct a project over the next 18 months to improve digital data collection and monitoring of childhood immunizations at Kenyan health facilities.

Read more about Dolan and her project on the UW Department of Global Health website–and congratulations from the I-TECH family!