ECOWAS launches the pilot of the novel “ECOWAS One Health Leadership Course” for pandemic preparedness and response at the University of Ghana School of Public Health

ECOWAS launches the pilot of the novel “ECOWAS One Health Leadership Course” for pandemic preparedness and response at the University of Ghana School of Public Health

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ACCRA, Ghana, July 19, 2023 -/African Media Agency (AMA)/- In an effort to improve the regional One Health-oriented pandemic preparedness and response system, ECOWAS agencies, under the lead of the West African Health Organisation (WAHO) and its Regional Centre for Surveillance and Disease Control (RCSDC), have joined forces to further develop the public health work force in the region with a new innovative training course, developed with the support of Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the European Union (EU).

The University of Ghana School of Public Health has announced the launch of the inaugural ECOWAS One Health Leadership Course on 17th July 2023. This significant course, spanning over 10 days, is specifically tailored for public health professionals from ECOWAS Member States who are actively involved in pandemic prevention and response efforts in different institutions within the region.

The course, which is a flagship initiative of ECOWAS’ specialised institution  for public health, WAHO, and its agency RCSDC, in cooperation with the Regional Animal Health Centre (RAHC) and the Directorate of Environment of the ECOWAS Commission, aims to promote the One Health agenda in the region by fostering cross-sectoral collaboration at the human-animal-environment interface among the different relevant sectors at regional and national levels and facilitate the development of cross-border professional networks.

During his opening speech, H.E. Ambassador Baba G Wakil, Resident Representative of ECOWAS in Ghana, who was speaking on behalf of the President of the ECOWAS Commission, stated: “ECOWAS is fully aware of its decisive role is to play in the prevention and control of pandemic and has committed the effort of multiple of its institutions to this endeavour […] The development of the work force is made policy in the regional plan for the preparedness and response to epidemics. This leadership course will no doubt add value to elevating us to higher grounds.

As plans, procedures and tools for preparedness and response progress and improve rapidly over time, the work force must not be neglected. Because a system is only ever as good as the people who operate in it. This is why this innovative course is particularly important: It brings together the important managerial and tactical level staff of various sectors and institutions of the regional network to learn more about the region’s strategies and instruments, acquire new leadership skills and develop a joint vision for the advancement of One Health in ECOWAS at all levels”, Mr. Damien Bishop, Head of Programme of the Regional Programme Support to Pandemic Prevention in the ECOWAS Region, explained in his opening remarks.

Worldwide, zoonotic diseases (transmitted from animals to humans), comprise a large percentage of all newly identified infectious diseases. One Health is a collaborative approach to health, which recognises that humans and animals live in a shared environment and there is added value to be gained by working together on issues at the interface of different sectors.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines One Health as “an approach to designing and implementing programmes, policies, legislation and research in which multiple sectors communicate and work together to achieve better public health outcomes”. This approach has paramount significance for the ECOWAS region, which is facing new and recurrent outbreaks of infectious diseases of zoonotic and environmental origin. “We cannot ignore that One Health is crucial and all ECOWAS players have an important role to play. We can only address when we fully apply the principles of One Health”, Dr. Franklin, Director of Public Health of the Ghana Health Service, said.

The ECOWAS One Health Leadership Course, for which WAHO and RCSDC are in the lead, has been meticulously designed in collaboration with the Institute of Global Health at the University of Heidelberg and Health Focus GmbH, as part of GIZ’s Regional Programme Support to Pandemic Prevention in the ECOWAS region (RPPP2), in close partnership with the regional institutions. During the launch ceremony, the Deputy Director of Health Focus, Dr. Gerlinde Reiprich, presented the development process of the course, which was done throughout the past 7 months in a collaborative and participatory approach involving all stakeholders.

The course promises to be an engaging and interactive experience for all participants, covering the topics of effective leadership and management skills and tools, One Health, interinstitutional communication and coordination and risk communication for effective epidemic and pandemic preparedness and response in four modules. “The One Health workforce is one of the current gaps identified in the region, this is why this course is so important to shape the future of collaboration for the prevention and control of pandemics”, stated Prof. Bassirou Bonfoh, renowned One Health scholar and director of Afrique One, in his keynote speech on the importance of leadership for the advancement of One Health in the region.

The University of Ghana School of Public Health is piloting the course over the coming 2 weeks for English-speaking professionals of the ECOWAS region. “This course will improve the footprint of the School of Public Health of the University of Ghana for the support of pandemic preparedness”, noted Prof. Kwasi Torpey, Dean of the School of Public Health, in his opening speech. The French-speaking course will be piloted at the Institut Régional de Santé Publique (IRSP) in Ouidah, Benin, from 21 August to 1 September 2023.

Distributed by African Media Agency (AMA) on behalf of ECOWAS.

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