January 25, 2017
The East African Integrated Disease Surveillance Network (EAIDSNet) was formed in response to a growing frequency of cross-border malaria outbreaks in the 1990s and a growing recognition that fragmented disease interventions, coupled with weak laboratory capacity, were making it difficult to respond in a timely manner to the outbreaks of malaria and other infectious diseases. The East Africa Community (EAC) partner states, with financial support from the Rockefeller Foundation, established EAIDSNet in 2000 to develop and strengthen the communication channels necessary for integrated cross-border disease surveillance and control efforts. The objective of this paper is to review the regional EAIDSNet initiative and highlight achievements and challenges in its implementation. Major accomplishments of EAIDSNet include influencing the establishment of a Department of Health within the EAC Secretariat to support a regional health agenda; successfully completing a regional field simulation exercise in pandemic influenza preparedness; and piloting a web-based portal for linking animal and human health disease surveillance. The strategic direction of EAIDSNet was shaped, in part, by lessons learned following a visit to the more established Mekong Basin Disease Surveillance (MBDS) regional network. Looking to the future, EAIDSNet is collaborating with the East, Central and Southern Africa Health Community (ECSA-HC), EAC partner states, and the World Health Organization to implement the World Bank-funded East Africa Public Health Laboratory Networking Project (EAPHLNP). The network has also begun lobbying East African countries for funding to support EAIDSNet activities.