22 October 2012

2012 ISDS Conference Highlight: Plenary Panel on Successful Collaborations

The ISDS Annual Conference is the premier event dedicated to the advancement of the science and practice of biosurveillance. The 2012 Conference will be held at the Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina in San Diego, CA, December 4-5th, 2012, with Pre-Conference Workshops on December 3rd. This year’s theme, Expanding Collaborations to Chart a New Course in Public Health Surveillance, will highlight the importance of working together across agencies, sectors, and disciplines to improve surveillance methods and population health outcomes. No session addresses this year’s theme quite like the plenary panel: Highlighting Successful Collaborations.

Map of Texas-Mexico Border Area from the
Texas Department of State Health Services website
The first panel presenter, Captain Stephen H. Waterman, is the Lead of the Division of Global Migration and Quarantine’s (DGMQ) U.S.-Mexico Unit at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases. The Division’s Public Health Mission is “To reduce morbidity and mortality among immigrants, refugees, travelers, expatriates, and other globally mobile populations, and to prevent the introduction, transmission, and spread of communicable diseases through regulation, science, research, preparedness, and response." In this capacity it is imperative for Captain Waterman to successfully collaborate with public health professionals in multiple U.S. jurisdictions, as well as internationally. Specifically, he works with staff at San Diego, CA and El Paso, Texas quarantine stations, CDC headquarters in Atlanta, GA, and the Mexico Ministry of Health Directorate of Epidemiology in Mexico City.

In order to optimize the productivity of these partnerships, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Secretariat of Health of Mexico developed ‘Guidelines for Cooperation on Public Health Events of Mutual Interest (pdf),’ which are published on the DGMQ’s webpages. These guidelines are based on the following general principles: (1) the need to share information; (2) timely sharing of information; (3) commitment to providing high quality information (i.e., accuracy and completeness); (4) clearly defined communication pathways; (5) confidentiality, protection of privacy, and dissemination of information; (6) joint action to respond to a public health event; (7) consideration of differences between health systems; and (8) respect for the sovereignty and laws of each country. Captain Waterman brings his considerable expertise to this panel and is sure to provide attendees with insights into how to successfully collaborate.

Screen shot of Malaria Atlas Project parasite rate map with key.
The second panel presenter, Simon I. Hay, is Professor of Epidemiology and Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow at the University of Oxford. He investigates spatial and temporal features of infectious disease epidemiology in order to facilitate the rational implementation of disease control and intervention strategies. Professor Hay developed and manages the Malaria Atlas Project, which is an international collaboration of researchers that aim to improve the cartography of malaria (project funded by Wellcome Trust). Participating researchers collaborate to develop new and innovative methods of mapping malaria risk with the goal of producing a comprehensive range of maps and estimates. One of the main tenants of this project is open and free access of information and resources (available under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License). To this end, you can view and use the Malaria Atlas Project data yourself by clicking here. This project has been extremely successful and provides a potential model for other collaboration-based projects.

To find out more about the 2012 ISDS Conference, please visit our website. The detailed agenda is now available here.

Written by: Tera Reynolds, MPH, Program Manager, ISDS

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