Experts collaborate on infectious diseases
The Pacific-Europe Network for Science, Technology and Innovation (PACE-Net Plus) ‘Think Tanks’ on Infectious Diseases in the Pacific presented their outcomes as part of the PACE-Net Plus bi-regional dialogue platform in Nadi on June 30.
The bi-regional dialogue platform was hosted by The University of the South Pacific’s (USP) Faculty of Science, Technology and Environment (FSTE) with the theme “Moving towards a high-level policy dialogue in Science, Technology and Innovation (ST&I) pathways to innovation in the Pacific region.”
More than 45 public health practitioners and health scientists representing countries from the Pacific, European Union (EU) and European and International Health Organisation shared their experiences, expertise, knowledge and ideas to define how to address current and emerging infectious diseases in the Pacific. During his presentation of the Think Tank outcomes, Dr Hervé Bossin, Senior Scientist and Medical Entomologist at Institut Louis Malardé in Tahiti French Polynesia highlighted how Europe and the Pacific can mutually benefit from collaborative research to jointly address some of the important public health issues. He said some of the environmental factors that foster the spillover, spread and amplification of infectious diseases in the Pacific include tropical environments, natural disasters, poverty and poor sanitation, outbreaks in other parts of the world, regional travel and lack of workforce skills. Dr Bossin presented three main outcomes by the Health Think Tanks. The first outcome was identifying the main challenges faced by the Pacific in addressing infectious diseases. Some of the issues highlighted as part of the challenges comprise the need to improve disease diagnosis, public health policy, data management, expertise and knowledge and technical co-operation. The second outcome was identifying main drivers to improve disease surveillance, management and control in the Pacific. Dr Bossin said this was done through drivers of improvement identified through typical case studies on diseases such as zika, malaria, measles, leptospirosis and so forth. The third and final outcome by the health think tanks was to list priority research of common Pacific and EU interest on infectious diseases.
The Pacific island context, Dr Bossin said, makes it is easier to understand the dynamics of infectious disease transmission and to implement innovative and efficient ways to prevent them.
In conclusion, Dr Bossin highlighted the common areas of interest and collaboration between the two regions. For Europe, Dr Bossin recommended the need to improve scientific knowledge on emerging infectious diseases, setting up and early warning systems to help prevent disease introduction into Europe and supporting innovative control strategies to prevent disease outbreaks. He said that Pacific countries could benefit from the European scientific expertise and capacity, foster joint collaborations to tackle common public health issues and strengthen capacity through education and training. PACE-Net Plus is a project funded by the European Commission to reinforce EU-Pacific collaboration of Science, Technology and Innovation and to promote mutually beneficial partnerships. The two day PACE-NET Plus biregional dialogue platform ended last Friday.