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DOH: Summit held to develop roadmap, expand genomic surveillance

The Department of Health (DOH) and World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday held a Philippine Genomic Surveillance Consortium Stakeholder Summit to develop a roadmap and expand genomic surveillance of pathogens to safeguard public health.

The Philippine Genomic Surveillance Consortium Stakeholder Summit was held with the support of WHO Philippines and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in line with the WHO’s global genomic surveillance strategy for pathogens with pandemic and epidemic potential for 2022 to 2032, according to the DOH.

The DOH said the summit was to “support the agency in developing a roadmap to expand governance, developed through the COVID-19 pandemic, for genomic surveillance of other pathogens that could significantly impact public health.”

The Health Department said the summit also held consultative discussions on mapping current genomic capacities, capabilities, challenges, and opportunities in the Philippines which underscore the governance arrangements within and across organizations.

Also discussed were funding to support public health genomic activities, reporting of genomic data and using it for public health decision-making or implementation of activities, and the role of enablers and barriers.

“Genomic surveillance has shaped our understanding of the novel SARS-CoV-2 and its many variants. Genomic data generated and shared by the global scientific community enabled countries to develop evidence-based responses including health system readiness, treatment, vaccination, and calibration of public health and social measures,” Dr. Graham Harrison, WHO Philippines officer-in-charge, said.

Harrison also commended the DOH for its effort to strengthen genomic surveillance to guide public health action amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The DOH meanwhile vowed to safeguard public health, through a “whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach,” by working with other health organizations.

“The DOH assures that the sharing of expertise and knowledge will be for the benefit of the Juans and Juanas as we further develop our public health systems,” DOH Assistant Secretary Beverly Lorraine Ho said.

“The success of the consortium relies on coordinated efforts of our genomic surveillance stakeholders, and we ask for your continued support for our surveillance activities to better prepare for and respond to emerging public health concerns,” she added.

Together with Ho and Harrison, Epidemiology Bureau Director Alethea De Guzman USAID Deputy Director Yolanda Oliveros, and FHI 360 Country Director Dr. Soliman Guirgis attended the event.

Interagency Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases Technical Working Group on COVID-19 Variants advisors Dr. Anna Ong-Lim of the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital; Drs. Edsel Maurice Salvana and Eva Dela Paz of the University of the Philippines-National Institutes of Health; and Dr. Cynthia Saloma of the Philippine Genome Center; with counterparts in PGC Visayas and Mindanao; were also present during the event. — DVM, GMA Integrated News