RITM Chief backs TDR direction, urges WPRO participation
In photo: RITM, through Dr. Celia Carlos, participates in this year’s WHO TDR JCB session

RITM OIC Director IV, Dr. Celia Carlos, calls for regional action from the World Health Organization (WHO) Western Pacific Region following the 42nd Joint Coordinating Board (JCB) session of the WHO Special Program for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR) on June 25-26, 2019 in Geneva, Switzerland.

The JCB is the top governing body of the TDR that meets annually to review TDR’s activities, evaluate progress and plans, and determine TDR’s budget.

“In the Western Pacific, TDR has played a significant role in the prevention and control of malaria, dengue, tuberculosis, and neglected tropical diseases such as filariasis, schistosomiasis, taeniasis/cysticercosis, rabies, leprosy, and snakebite envenoming, among others,” explains Dr. Carlos, noting that the Philippines is endemic to all these diseases.

As this year’s representative of the Philippines and the WHO Western Pacific Regional Office (WPRO) in the JCB, Dr. Carlos urges the 37 Member States and health agencies to focus on the three TDR strategic areas namely: research, capacity strengthening, and global engagement.

Research for implementation
“The WHO WPRO should link with the TDR and tap into its resources to undertake relevant research to achieve control of tropical diseases endemic in the region,” says Dr. Carlos.

The JCB has allotted TDR resources for policy research, tackling country preparedness for disease outbreaks, country resilience to the threat of drug-resistant infections, and increasing resilience to vector-borne diseases under climate change conditions.

TDR also aims to maximize utilization of data and safety information for public health decision‐making, and optimize approaches for effective delivery and impact assessment of public health interventions. All six WHO regions are set to create strategies to achieve, sustain, and promote a gender-responsive health interventions on the prevention, control, and elimination of diseases of poverty.

Research capacity strengthening
For 2020-2021, TDR has proposed support to targeted research training grants for MSc and PhD and career development fellowship grants, on top of the annual support provided to the regional training centers.

“[The Western Pacific] Member States should avail of the capacity building opportunities being provided by TDR such as postgraduate courses, short term training courses on implementation research, good clinical/laboratory practice, and, in the future, online courses,” urges Dr. Carlos.
In the Western Pacific, RITM has been designated as the WHO Regional Training Center (RTC) for Health Research.

Global engagement
To ensure countries and communities are engaged in the TDR health agenda, JCB has allotted resources for the conduct of research on social innovation to enhance healthcare delivery and capacity strengthening to bring research evidence into policy. The regions are also expected to improve its collaborative networks and engagement with global health initiative, while also putting focus on effective engagement in gender and equity.

“Member States should avail of advocacy and communication tools provided by TDR to engage their public health leaders to support the TDR priority health programs,” calls Dr. Carlos to the WPRO partner countries.

Role of RITM-DOH
As for the role of RITM in the achievement of the TDR strategies, Dr. Carlos advises its researchers to undertake priority TDR research projects for diseases endemic in the Philippines.

“Being a host of a research training center that provides courses in good clinical and laboratory practices and research methods, RITM has the potential to contribute significantly towards developing a pool of experts in the Western Pacific who can undertake research projects which can contribute towards prevention and control of tropical diseases endemic in the region,” says Dr. Carlos.

Since 2010, the WHO-RTC of RITM has been working to improve regional capacity in the development and conduct of high-quality researches that address public health needs. Its offered courses are part of the long-term goal of increased ability of disease endemic countries to access grants and improve quality of research and competitiveness, while establishing a global network of highly trained professionals.

One of the six WHO regional offices, WPRO is headquartered in Manila, Philippines and works with health authorities and partners in 37 countries with its reach extending from the Mongolian steppes in central Asia, east to the Pitcairn Islands in the Pacific Ocean and south to New Zealand.

by JA Quinto, Communication and Engagement Office