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Focus on polio eradication, worldwide ‘health security’; ‘Buckle up to tackle infectious diseases’

KUWAIT CITY, Oct 5: “A disease somewhere, can be a disease anywhere”, remarked Mitch Wolfe, the US Deputy Assistant Secretary for Global Affairs, as he stressed the need for prevention, preparedness and good response capabilities to tackle infectious diseases that have become highly mobile with advances in travel and transportation. Dr Wolfe, who previously worked with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 1998-2014, is participating as an observer in the World Health Organisation’s regional office for the Eastern Mediterranean (EMRO) committee meeting in Kuwait, being held from Oct 5-8, and is also meeting with Kuwaiti counterparts in the health sector during his visit. Key topics of the committee meeting include polio eradication, prevention and control of non-communicable diseases and global health security, with a focus on implementation of a international health regulations, MERS-CoV and prevention of viral hepatitis.

Speaking to the press on the sidelines, he elaborated on the cooperation in the health sector between the two countries, “The US and Kuwait have a very close relationship in many different areas and health is one we want to continue to build on. We have had Kuwaiti doctors come to the US to see how we do some things and we have also had our doctors from the Center of Disease Control and Prevention come here. We have a lot of good technical experiences to share.

We have a lot of commonalities in health together that we want to address and areas where we can learn from each other.” “Kuwait is putting together a Non- Communicable Disease strategy and that is one area that we can work on very closely because of the similar problems affecting our populations”, he stated, also highlighting a specific focus of collaboration being laboratory systems that he deemed were important not only for individual countries but also the health of the world. He underscored that diseases today, travel fast and the global need to work on prevention and preparedness for any kind of infectious disease. “Our technical collaboration is looking at overall systems and preparedness for response to any infectious diseases. we can work together and it is very important that there is a set of preparations that every country in the world is working towards.”

Assistant Undersecretary for Public Health, Dr Majda Al Qattan shared, “This year we are arranging cooperation for the assessments of public health laboratories. There are a lot of infectious diseases appearing in the area and we want to be ready and competent in any stage of emergency.” She shared that regular assessments were carried by teams from the WHO, “We had a food safety team visit for two weeks and we are expecting that report in a few days. Previously, they also sent a team to check Kuwait preparedness for ebola and we got good report.

There were some points that they have recorded in their report and we always return back to our system and make the correction. We asked them even today in the meeting to have another cycle for visit to reassess our measures.” She pointed out that health and well being is a multi-sectorial concern and proper cooperation is needed between government ministries and sectors. She also addressed the recent alerts sent out by the MOH regarding cholera, “We are taking all measures to prevent importing this disease.

We have made announcements and we are following international regulation for controlling the infectious diseases.” Dr Wolfe will also meet a panel of four Kuwaiti medical professionals who traveled to the US in May as part of the US Embassy’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP). Dr Abdullah Al Ali, a member of the Kuwaiti team shared that the visit focused on how to tackle non communicable diseases that are shared by both countries.

The delegation visited the national institute of health and department of health and human services in Washington DC, the Cleveland Clinic’s Diabetes Center in Ohio, and the Center for Disease Control and Center for Global Health in Atlanta. In addition, the delegation visited several non profit organisations that promote healthy lifestyles, fitness, and diabetes and obesity prevention programs for youth. Dr Al Ali shared that the visit was very beneficial to the team as they were able to experience life in the US and meet people from diverse backgrounds,

By Cinatra Fernandes Arab Times Staff

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