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Disease Surveillance Networks Initiative

Diseases do not respect boundaries Once diseases spread beyond a localized region, their expansion becomes exponential and difficult to contain. Early detection and containment by effective disease surveillance networks are critical to arresting pandemics in their early stages. Cross-country disease surveillance networks are a mechanism that encompass human resources deployment, rapid communication, and transparent collaboration for early detection and response to emerging diseases and pandemics.

The Rockefeller Foundation’s $22,000,000 Disease Surveillance Networks (DSN) Initiative was formally launched in 2007 (building on important and ground-breaking work that had begun as early as 1999) to address the rapid emergence of new infectious diseases, most often from zoonotic sources, with pandemic potential. The global health and economic impacts of SARS, H5N1 (Avian Flu) and H1N1 (Swine Flu) had raised awareness of global pandemic threats, which deeply affect the world’s poorest people. Common drivers of pandemics include increased cross-border trade, mobility and migration of humans and animals, livestock productions systems, population density, viral adaptation and ecological shifts as a result of climate change.

Most emerging diseases originate and accelerate in places with the weakest borders and the greatest economic and social need. Thus, the Foundation’s DSN Initiative awarded grants and supported activities in both Africa and Asia around three related areas, focused on capacity building, increased use of innovative and relevant tools, and improved information sharing—all to establish and better coordinate networks in the area of regional disease surveillance. The Foundation, responding to needs identified by actors in the two regions and interest expressed by the World Disease Surveillance Networks page 2 Health Organization, began in 1999 to explore the formation of sub-regional disease surveillance networks, first in Asia and shortly thereafter in Africa. Through the creation of these new sub-regional networks, the Foundation’s goal was to support each region’s ability to enhance detection, report and respond to pandemic disease outbreaks—leading to reduction or containment of the outbreak, saving lives, and sustaining human migration and trade. These efforts fall within a One Health world view that sees people, livestock, wildlife and the environment as interconnected systems. Moreover, The Rockefeller Foundation’s approach takes into account that local and regional contexts are enmeshed in a global web of relationships that often require diplomatic actions, where a strong ability on the part of technocrats and diplomats from developing countries to better negotiate health issues leads to better health outcomes.

Grantmaking for this Initiative concluded at the end of 2012, after an extensive evaluation and having achieved the goals described above.