Using critical information to strengthen pandemic preparedness: The role of national public health agencies

Mishal S. Khan*, Osman Dar, Ngozi A. Erondu, Afifah Rahman-Shepherd, Lara Hollmann, Chikwe Ihekweazu, Okechukwu Ukandu, Emmanuel Agogo, Aamer Ikram, Tayyab Razi Rathore, Ebere Okereke, Neil Squires

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


COVID-19 has demonstrated that most countries' public health systems and capacities are insufficiently prepared to prevent a localised infectious disease outbreak from spreading. Strengthening national preparedness requires National Public Health Institutes (NPHIs), or their equivalent, to overcome practical challenges affecting timely access to, and use of, data that is critical to preparedness. Our situational analysis in collaboration with NPHIs in three countries - Ethiopia, Nigeria and Pakistan - characterises these challenges. Our findings indicate that NPHIs' role necessitates collection and analysis of data from multiple sources that do not routinely share data with public health authorities. Since initiating requests for access to new data sources can be a lengthy process, it is essential that NPHIs are routinely monitoring a broad set of priority indicators that are selected to reflect the country-specific context. NPHIs must also have the authority to be able to request rapid sharing of data from public and private sector organisations during health emergencies and to access additional human and financial resources during disease outbreaks. Finally, timely, transparent and informative communication of synthesised data from NPHIs will facilitate sustained data sharing with NPHIs from external organisations. These actions identified by our analysis will support the availability of robust information systems that allow relevant data to be collected, shared and analysed by NPHIs sufficiently rapidly to inform a timely local response to infectious disease outbreaks in the future.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere002830
JournalBMJ Global Health
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 29 Sep 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Contributors MK, NE, OD, CI, AI, NS and EO conceptualised the study. MK, NE, ARS, LH, EA, TRR and OU implemented the study. MK developed the first draft of the paper. All authors contributed to writing and finalising the manuscript. Funding The SNAP-GHS project was funded by Public Health England. Competing interests None declared.

Funding Information:
This research was conducted as part of the Strengthening Accountability and Preparedness for Global Health Security (SNAP-GHS) project. We a grateful for input from the following NPHIs: Ethiopian Public Health Institute, Pakistan's National Institute of Health, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Public Health England, Robert Koch Institute, Norwegian Institute of Public Health and the Netherlands National Institute for Public Health and the Environment. We also acknowledge the International Association of National Public Health Institutes (IANPHI) for their advice and support during the project.

Publisher Copyright:
© Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2020. Re-use permitted under CC BY-NC. No commercial re-use. See rights and permissions. Published by BMJ.


  • health policy
  • health systems
  • prevention strategies
  • public health


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