Ambassador Miller and IEDCR Director Dr. Shirin presented certificates to graduates of the CDC-funded Field Epidemiology Training Program and praised Bangladesh health professionals for their work in combatting COVID-19. Over the two-day CDC-funded conference, participants shared experiences, establish a global network of public health experts, and advocated for an increasing number of epidemiologists and public health experts in Bangladesh.
DHAKA, March 31, 2021 – Today, United States Ambassador to Bangladesh Earl Miller inaugurated the First Bangladesh Congress on Epidemiology and Public Health. The two-day conference (March 31 and April 1) 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 U.S. 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 Bangladesh to 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.
During 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 program in 2014, 33 Bangladeshi epidemiologists have completed the rigorous two-year program. Over the past year, the trained Fellows have served on Bangladesh’s frontlines in combatting 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 organizations, including the World Health Organization (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 and public 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, and highlighted the importance of today’s Congress saying, “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. We can promote vaccination because the data from the vaccine trials and post vaccination surveillance tells us the vaccines are safe and effective. 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 World Health Organization and CDC recommended levels of a minimum of one medical epidemiologist for every 200,000 persons, CDC Bangladesh Country Director Dr. Michael Friedman noted that for Bangladesh, this equates to a minimum of 850 fully trained and employed medical epidemiologists. “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. The COVID-19 pandemic has taught the world that epidemiologists are vital and can be a great career choice for young health professionals wanting to make a difference in their community, their country, or the world.”
The CDC-funded First Bangladesh Congress on Epidemiology and Public Health is one of many initiatives of the U.S. government along with over $73 million in assistance over the past year to support Bangladesh’s coronavirus response efforts, including strengthening COVID-19 testing capacity of Bangladeshi laboratories; improving the care given to COVID-19 patients; and controlling the spread of the infection. It builds on the more than $1 billion in U.S. health assistance to Bangladesh over the past twenty years and underscores the long-term U.S. commitment to ensuring access to quality, lifesaving health services for all people in Bangladesh.
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. national public health agency, was established in July 1946 as the Communicable Disease Center with the primary mission of preventing the spread of malaria across the United States. Disease surveillance became the cornerstone of CDC’s mission. The CDC has been working around the world for more than 60 years, and currently works in 50-plus countries, including Bangladesh. The CDC brought its first medical epidemiologist, Dr. Stanley Foster, to Bangladesh in 1972. He spent four years in Dhaka (1972-1976) working with national health workers to eradicate smallpox from the country. More CDC epidemiologists followed and helped the country eradicate polio; reduce the burden of cholera; establish Bangladesh’s strong childhood immunization program; address micro-nutrient deficiencies; and investigate new pandemic-potential pathogens such as nipah virus. Since 2015, the CDC has focused on the Global Health Security Agenda to strengthen public health systems across the globe to detect, control, and ultimately prevent pandemics and large outbreaks. CDC Bangladesh is currently partnering with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and other federal and local government entities, medical and research associations, and others on a number of initiatives to build the country’s capacity to prevent the spread of diseases and help Bangladeshis live healthy lives. For more information about the CDC’s work on global health issues, visit: https://www.cdc.gov/globalhealth/index.html.