ASM Leads Partnership to Strengthen Liberia’s Healthcare System

Oct. 21, 2019

Washington, D.C. – October 21, 2019 – The 2014–2016 Ebola outbreak in West Africa significantly affected Liberia’s national health system. The American Society for Microbiology (ASM) was awarded a five-year cooperative agreement to collaborate with the Government of Liberia to strengthen its health system. Under this agreement, ASM and its partners – MRIGlobal and Linda S. Barnes Consulting (LBC) – will integrate quality-assured laboratory diagnostic testing, infection prevention and control (IPC) practices, and blood transfusion practices into the health services network.

“We are excited to continue working with our partners to fortify Liberia’s health security and lessen the spread of infectious diseases across the country. Unique from any work ASM’s Global Public Health Programs (GPHP) team has done before, we are delving into infection prevention and control in an entirely new capacity, and we are venturing into the blood space for the first time,” said Dr. Mark Lim, GPHP Director.

By focusing on three strategic areas – laboratory strengthening, IPC, and increased access to safe blood transfusion services – the project aims to reduce the burden of disease from public health threats across Liberia by establishing a cadre of trained Liberian public health leaders. These local champions will be equipped to train their colleagues on critical technical and bench-level skills and will increase public awareness and engagement in blood donation.

“Leveraging the expertise of MRIGlobal to hone in on infection prevention and control and LBC’s deep experience and extensive network in the blood space, we hope to provide sustainable and comprehensive advancements to Liberia’s healthcare system,” said Lim.

Over the past three years, ASM has been committed to strengthening Liberia’s public health systems. In 2016, ASM joined forces with the laboratory team at Phebe Hospital and School of Nursing in Bong County, a former Ebola hot zone, to train new laboratory mentors on basic microbiology diagnostic techniques. Read more on page 16 in our 2017-2018 Global Impact Report.

The entrance to Phebe Hospital in Bong County
The entrance to Phebe Hospital in Bong County

LBC has assembled a team of international and local experts to engage with facilities across Liberia to augment existing blood donation and transfusion practices, supporting a sustainable healthcare delivery system. “Blood transfusion is a World Health Organization essential medicine to treat blood loss and severe anemia. Yet unlike other medications, it comes from ordinary people in the local community who give blood so there is enough stored in the blood bank,” said Linda S. Barnes, LBC, CEO.

The project also aims to facilitate the transition of Liberia’s National Public Health Reference Laboratory (NPHRL) to its new site, assist with site-targeted implementation of national IPC protocols, and provide training and tools for the National Blood Services and Transfusion Program.

“MRIGlobal has been in Liberia since 2014 building post-Ebola laboratory capacity and conducting diagnostic test training. It has been an exciting challenge to build a new NPHRL in Monrovia, train the staff there, and integrate the NPHRL with the decentralized health work in small communities,” said Dr. Lance Presser, Principal Scientist of Global Engagement Programs, MRIGlobal. “Our network is intertwined with ASM’s as a number of us are members and we often cross paths in our global health work. We are thrilled to work with them in Liberia on a mission we are both deeply committed to.”

The team will evaluate progress of the program based on improvements in the capacity to detect outbreaks and other public health threats, prevent infectious disease transmission, and manage blood services and transfusions. “The ultimate goal is sustainability,” said Lim. “We aim to provide the Liberian healthcare workforce with the tools and training they need to carry out effective infection control and blood transfusion best practices on their own and continue to share them with colleagues.”

Activities supported by this program align with Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) priorities and objectives. This project is funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) through the Strengthening Laboratory, Blood Safety, and Infection Prevention and Control Capacities in Liberia funding opportunity (CDC-RFA-GH19-1962).
About CDC
CDC works 24/7 protecting America’s health, safety and security. Whether diseases start at home or abroad, are curable or preventable, chronic or acute, or from human activity or deliberate attack, CDC responds to the nation’s most pressing health threats. CDC is headquartered in Atlanta and has experts located throughout the United States and the world. CDC’s Center for Global Health works with partners to tackle global public health threats and produce the greatest global health impact.
About ASM
The American Society for Microbiology is the largest single life science society, composed of more than 30,000 scientists and health professionals. ASM's mission is to promote and advance the microbial sciences.
ASM advances the microbial sciences through conferences, publications, certifications and educational opportunities. It enhances laboratory capacity around the globe through training and resources. It provides a network for scientists in academia, industry and clinical settings. Additionally, ASM promotes a deeper understanding of the microbial sciences to diverse audiences.

Author: ASM Communications

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