The Deputy Director General for Technical Services at the National Health Institute of Liberia, Mosoka Fallah, says there is an urgent need for the government and its partners to invest in scientific research to prepare medical practitioners for tackling the outbreak of infectious diseases.
Dr. Fallah raised the concern in his speech last Friday at an occasion marking the end of a week-long training organized by the Joint West Africa Research Group (JWARG) for health practitioners.
He, however, acknowledged the efforts government and its partners have made thus far to improve the health sector, but stressed the need for government to focus on research that aims at preparing the country’s health sector for future outbreaks.
Dr. Fallah, who also recalled experiences from the Ebola outbreak in 2014, observed that if the government had focused on medical research, the devastating Ebola virus disease (EVD) would not have killed a lot of people including doctors and nurses in the country.
He praised the training and said such an idea is one helpful tool to use while attempting to address challenges the health sector is faced with.
Fallah maintained that investment in a long-term program like scientific research will adequately prepare health practitioners at all times to fight any outbreak.
“To our partners, you are doing well, but it is about time we start thinking about investing in a long-term goal that has to do with scientific research,” Dr. Fallah said.
United States Ambassador to Liberia Christine Elder told the participants to respect the medical profession in order to demonstrate to the public that what they have learnt from the training was important, and that they will use it to teach their colleagues who were not part of the training.
She underscored the importance of the JWARG seminar, which she said will help the participants to examine best practices by identifying and managing infectious diseases.
“Your commitment to this training reminds us that you are serious, for the quest to improve the country’s healthcare has no borders,” Amb. Elder said.
“This seminar confirms the value of reaching beyond individual borders and leveraging the community of healthcare professionals across West Africa to combat the spread of infectious diseases. Each of you brings a wealth of knowledge and experience that can enrich and inspire your colleagues,” she told the participants.
The US Envoy added that the success of the program clearly demonstrates that Liberia can take a leadership role in addressing regional health challenges in the future.
The JWARG clinical course highlights tropical and emerging infectious diseases for clinicians and laboratory technicians. The aim is to provide beneficiaries with the needed skills that will enhance research capability in West Africa.
Participants learnt about specific diseases including Ebola, Lassa fever, malaria, typhoid fever and HIV/AIDS.
Additionally, participants received lectures on clinical responses to threats of infectious disease, including diagnostics, prevention, treatment and ethics. Participants came from Liberia, Ghana and Nigeria.
The training followed the establishment of Liberia’s first clinical microbiology lab at the Phebe Hospital in 2016 to manage infectious diseases.
The JWARG supported this venture, and it is expected to enhance the capabilities of West African physicians, scientists and institutions to conduct clinical research, build and strengthen research capacities, provide effective surveillance mechanism, develop countermeasures and broaden understanding of relevant infectious disease threats.
The group is a collaborative initiative launched in 2015 between military, academic and non-profit organizations to leverage existing research platforms and relationships to improve bio preparedness in the region.
JWARG partners include the Austere Environment Consortium for Enhanced Sepsis Outcomes (ACESO) at the Naval Medical Research Center, U.S., Military HIV Research Program (MHRP) at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, Walter Reed Program-Nigeria and Naval Medical Research Unit 3-Ghana Detachment.
Others are the African Center of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases (ACEGID), the Sabeti lab at the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, the Henry Jackson Foundation (HJF), and other military, government and academic institutions.
Institutions partnering with JWARG in Liberia include the Liberia Biomedical Research (LIBR) of the National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL), Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), and Phebe Hospital.