The ambassador of the United States in Bangladesh, Earl Miller, has lauded the epidemiologists and public health experts who continue to serve as Bangladesh's frontline of defense to combat COVID-19.
"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," he said while addressing the first Bangladesh Congress on Epidemiology and Public Health on Wednesday, according to a press release.
The two-day conference 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 US 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 the 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.
On the occasion, Ambassador Miller and IEDCR Director Dr Shirin presented certificates of completion to 10 of graduates of the CDC-funded Field Epidemiology Training Program (FETP).
Speaking at the Congress, Ambassador Miller highlighted the importance of the 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," he added.
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." He said.
The CDC-funded First Bangladesh Congress on Epidemiology and Public Health is one of many initiatives of the US 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 US health assistance to Bangladesh over the past twenty years and underscores the long-term US commitment to ensuring access to quality, lifesaving health services for all people in Bangladesh.