US CDC and WHO provide support to the Ministry of Health to improve Surveillance and use of Immunization Data

Today, Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) became the first country in the WHO Western Pacific Region, and the second country in the world to introduce USCDC’s Stop Transmission of Polio (STOP) Immunization and Surveillance Data Specialists (ISDS) project.

The Ministry of Health (MOH), National Immunization Program (NIP) welcomes the support from US CDC and WHO. Dr Phouthone Moungpak, Deputy Health Minister said “The ISDS project will improve immunization and surveillance data in the country, which will be used for policy making and introducing key intervention that will effectively address vaccine preventable diseases.”

Under the STOP ISDS program, five international ISDS participants will partner with five Lao counterparts to conduct activities to improve data management, quality and use for the immunization and VPD surveillance systems in Lao PDR. Each team will be deployed to one of six provinces, Vientiane Capital and Vientiane Province, Oudomxay, Khammuane, Champassack and Xiengkhuang provinces, for the next two years. To ensure the sustainability of the program, the STOP ISDS Lao counterparts will continue to improve data management quality after the STOP ISDS project in Lao PDR is completed.

Following the first successful project in Kenya, the Global Immunization Division at US CDC reached out to the Lao PDR Ministry of Health and WHO to implement a similar project in the country. “The interest and commitment from both parties has been instrumental in moving this project forward” said Anna Callaghan, project coordinator from USCDC.

The primary focus of STOP ISDS strategy is to improve the quality of VPD surveillance and immunization data within the deployment provinces. High quality data is often needed for decision making to improve the population health. The STOP ISDS participants and their Lao counterparts will work with local health staff to identify specific data related challenges and to come up with sustainable solutions to address those problems.

Mr Morris Antony, one of the international ISDS participants from Kenya had worked with the Kenyan Government as a Data Manager for 13 years at both the central and district levels. In addition, he taught as a lecturer for health information management for more than a year and said, “The Lao Health Information System is similar to Kenya; we used the District Health Information Software (DHIS2), which is currently used in Laos for health information management. In Kenya, many of the recommendation from the ISDS were accepted and adopted by the government.”

The STOP ISDS participants and their local Lao counterparts received three weeks of intensive training in Uganda to prepare them for their new roles in the provinces where they will be based for two years. One of the LPITs, Dr Kouxiong Sayteng, is from the Hmong ethnic group and he shares his excitement to be a part of this project. He said, “The training provided many useful tools for immunization surveillance and data management which can be used for work at the district and health facility levels.”

Dr Juliet Fleischl, WHO Representative to Lao PDR said “WHO is pleased to be the convening agency for this ISDS project with the USCDC to support the Ministry of Health in Lao PDR. This complements our work on Health Information System and capacity building for health staff. We hope to see the health staff working to integrate ISDS with DHIS2 to improve data quality at the subnational levels.”

Launch of the Immunization and Surveillance Data Specialist project in Lao PDR with representatives from the Ministry of Health, US CDC, US Embassy, WHO and UNICEF.
Dr Juliet Fleischl (WHO Representative), Dr Phounthone Muongpak (Deputy Minister of Health) and Mr Steve Carroll (Acting Representative of the US Mission in Lao PDR) was interviewed by the Lao TV station