Gates Foundation names Emory Global Health Institute lead partner in child health network

By Holly Korschun | Woodruff Health Sciences Center | May 6, 2015

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The Child Health and Mortality Prevention Surveillance network, or CHAMPS, will help gather better data, faster, about how, where and why children are getting sick and dying, with a particular focus on sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia.

At its Global Partners Forum in Seattle today, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced a new global health surveillance network aimed at preventing childhood mortality in developing countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia. The Emory Global Health Institute, which houses the U.S. office of the International Association of National Public Health Institutes (IANPHI), will be the lead partner in the new network.

The Gates Foundation plans an initial commitment of up to $75 million for the initiative.

The Child Health and Mortality Prevention Surveillance network, or CHAMPS, will help gather better data, faster, about how, where and why children are getting sick and dying. CHAMPS will partner with governments and national public health institutes to better diagnose, characterize, manage, treat and prevent these specific causes of disease.

Disease surveillance sites in areas of high childhood mortality rates will offer a long-term approach to information management, laboratory infrastructure and workforce capacity, which are vital resources in areas lacking sufficient public health infrastructure. The goal is to provide data that impact development of policy, setting of priorities for research, and provision of needed medicines and vaccines. The network could also be repurposed quickly in the event of an emerging disease epidemic, such as Ebola.

CHAMPS is envisioned to be a 20-year project based initially at six sites, but eventually could be expanded to as many as 20 sites.

"Seven million children die from preventable causes annually around the world," says Jeffrey Koplan, MD, MPH, vice president for global health at Emory University. "Many of these deaths from diseases, such as pneumonia, meningitis, malaria, tuberculosis, and respiratory syncytial virus infection, and from poor nutrition and accidents, could be prevented with better vaccines, antibiotics, diagnostics, advanced medical procedures, improved nutrition, behavior modification, and access to care. This surveillance network will help the Gates Foundation and other stakeholders to quickly generate the data needed to develop targeted prevention, diagnosis and treatment for children in developing countries."

The Emory Global Health Institute will collaborate with the International Association of National Public Health Institutes (IANPHI), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Public Health Informatics Institute -- a program of the Task Force for Global Health, and Deloitte Consulting LLP. The network will collaborate with ISGlobal/Hospital Clinic-University of Barcelona in developing and applying state-of-the-art tissue sampling and diagnostic procedures.

IANPHI, with secretariats at the National Institute of Public Health (INSP) Mexico and the National Institute for Public Health Surveillance (InVS) France, is a global network of almost 100 CDC-like organizations that has established a robust health infrastructure in many developing nations and relationships among governments, health care institutions and global aid organizations. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has provided funding support for IANPHI through the Emory Global Health Institute since 2005.

CDC will provide technical advice on the selection, development and oversight of the CHAMPS Network sites. As a robust disease surveillance system is established, this system and other aspects of prevention and clinical care would be gradually transferred to local governments and national public health institutes with the help of IANPHI.

Results of the broad new surveillance network will inform treatment and research decisions for many childhood diseases, explains Koplan. Information about disease prevalence also will help attract more research funding for vaccines and drugs for the most lethal and widespread infectious diseases and inform health care policy decisions for local and national governments.

"The groundbreaking work of CHAMPS represents a paradigm shift in the approach towards characterizing why children in these settings are dying, leading to evidence-driven priorities for targeted research and interventions designed to reduce the unacceptable levels of childhood mortality in many parts of Africa and south Asia," says Robert Breiman, MD, director of the Emory Global Health Institute.

The CHAMPS network also will present a special opportunity for Emory faculty and students to participate in related research and training.