Recently (see Government Gazette No 39392, Vol. 605 of 11 November 2015), the National Assembly passed a Bill to establish the National Public Health Institutes of South Africa (NAPHISA) in order to conduct disease and injury surveillance and to provide specialised public health services, public health interventions, training and research directed towards the major health challenges affecting the poulation of the Republic, and to provide for matters connected therewith. There are pockets of excellence in the surveillance systems of communicable anf non-communicable diseases in South Africa. These systems are managed by different instituions and there is no institutional capacity for providing coordinated and integrated disease and injury surveillance data.
The establishment of NAPHISA will help to enhance health systems effectiveness. The preamble to the Bill captures the spirit and overarching objective of what the Department of Health seeks to achieve:
The aim of NAPHISA is to provide integrated and coordinated disease and injury surveillance, research, monitoring and evaluation of services and interventions directed towards the major public health problems affecting persons in South Africa.
The NAPHISA’s core functions will be to:
- Coordinate surveillance systems that monitor diseases and injuries
- Provide specialised reference laboratory and referral services
- Provide training and workforce development
- Conduct research and support public health interventions aimed at reducing the burden of diseases and injuries and thus improving the health of the population
Many countries have found that National Public Health Institutes play an important role in identifying health problems and informing the appropriate health system response. Currently data that informs health policy is fragmented and this makes it difficult for the the Department of Health to respond timeously to the actual health needs. NAPHISA will greatly improve evidence-based policy decision-making and mechanisms to be put in place to ensure that the impact of interventions is measured and its effectiveness evaluated.
The model of NAPHISA has been benchmarked against International best practice and against the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention – USA – a well established public health institute. There is also an established international network of Public Health Institutes and an African network of NPHIs (IANPHI-Africa). They are positioned to provide peer support, collaboratioon and knowledge sharing to new and existing institutes internationally and across the continent.
It is intended that the functions and role of NAPHISA will be positioned at a national, regional, continental, and international level. Some of the existing activities in the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) are already positioned at a level of international collaboration.
NAPHISA wil have a memorandum of agreements with the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) and other entities to ensure that key objectives are realised.