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Workshop for Public Health Institute of Malawi

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A delegation from Malawi recently attended a workshop organized by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH) and the International Association of National Public Health Institutes (IANPHI).

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Public Health Institute of Malawi feb 2014.jpg

From left: Dr Ben Chilima (Director, Public Health Reference Laboratory), Elin H. Wyller (senior advisor, NIPH), Courtenay Dusenbury (Director, IANPHI Secretariat at Emory University, Atlanta, USA), Dr Austin Mnthambala (Team leader, PHIM Task Force), Dr Dalitso Kabambe (Director of Planning & Policy Development Dept., Ministry of Health), Dr Matthews Kagoli (Director, Epidemiological Unit), Dr Damson Kathyola (Director, Research Unit), Anne Bergh (International Director, NIPH), Ambonishe Mwalwimba (vice team leader PHIM Task Force) and Bjørn Iversen (Director, Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, p.t. scientific expert for WHO - Jerusalem). Photo: Kari Grette (Assistant Director,Ministry of Health & Care Services)

Along with IANPHI, the NIPH invited four directors from Malawi's Ministry of Health, together with the Director of Planning and Policy Development, to a workshop in Oslo from 5th to 7th February.

IANPHI and NIPH are collaborating with the Public Health Institute of Malawi (PHIM) in connection with reorganising the three units in Malawi's health ministry to a joint national public health institute.

Currently, PHIM is a government-appointed task force consisting of two people. The three units to be incorporated are the public health reference laboratory, epidemiology and research, which have 39 employees in total. The workshop aimed to contribute to a plan for transition to a strengthened Public Health Institute of Malawi as part of the reorganization process. Or as Geir Stene-Larsen said when he shared his experiences from the NIPH merger process in 2002, "We are not reorganising, we are creating a new institute."

Malawi has several strategic plans that support the need for a national institute of public health, including the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy II (2011-2016), the Malawi Health Sector Strategic Plan (2011-2016) and the National Health Research Agenda 2012-2016. In addition, Malawi has adopted IDSR (Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response) framework and IHR (International Health Regulations 2005) which presupposes a well-functioning national health service.
Public Health Institute of Malawi feb 2014.jpg
From left: Dr Ben Chilima, Ambonishe Mwalwimba, Bjørn Iversen, Dr Dalitso Kabambe, Courtenay Dusenbury, Dr Matthews Kagoli, Dr Damson Kathyola (front), Anne Bergh and Dr Austin Mnthambala. Photo: Kari Grette 
The establishment of PHIM has been approved by the Malawi government and the institute will contribute to achieving the goals the country has set itself in terms of reducing the burden of disease and mortality in the country and to improve the health of Malawi's population. After approval, Malawi's Ministry of Health drafted a Strategic Plan for the Public Health Institute of Malawi (PHIM) 2012-2017.

The NIPH will continue to support Malawi's Public Health Institute with expertise in water quality, surveillance systems and mental health. Eventually, this collaboration could include other public health topics, such as drug abuse and traffic accidents.

Malawi is facing a new government election in May this year and the future of the Public Health Institute of Malawi could be affected by the election results. Until then, NIPH and PHIM are exploring other possible areas of co-operation which may also include new partnerships.