This award will fund a two-day satellite workshop to the Next Einstein Forum (NEF) in Dakar, Senegal. The workshop will be held on March 6-7, 2016, and will focus on US-African collaborative research on infectious disease modeling for informing public health preparedness. The recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa was a reminder that the world is ill-prepared for a severe disease epidemic or any similar global sustained public emergency. The risk of future global severe infectious disease outbreaks in an increasingly connected world is greater than ever. The workshop will explore how mathematical models can be used to understand and forecast disease transmission dynamics and to evaluate the effect of different interventions and changing on-the-ground conditions on epidemiological outcomes. The workshop will concentrate on the responses to the recent Ebola outbreak, while gaining insight from responses to HIV/AIDS and other epidemics within individual countries. To enhance local engagement, a mini-symposium at the University Cheikh anta Diop of Dakar is also planned.
Though modelers have analyzed ongoing epidemics before, such as the 2003 SARS and 2009 Swine Flu epidemics, their response to the recent Ebola outbreak enabled by online availability of epidemiological data, from WHO and health ministries of the most affected countries, was unprecedented in magnitude. Lessons learned from this outbreak will be fundamental for improving the application for epidemiological modeling during outbreak of emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases, engaging public awareness on the importance of epidemiological modeling, and improving interaction between public health authorities and modelers to the end of using mathematical/computational models to inform preparedness strategies to mitigate future epidemics. The satellite workshop and mini-symposium will catalyze collaborations among modelers and policy makers in the US and Africa. Bringing together scientists from Africa and the US should lead them to be better prepared to collaborate on the intertwined problems posed for our societies by the threats of disease. Not only will this enable US researchers to gain better understanding of routes of disease transmission and effects of government policies in Africa, it will also expose them to the modeling efforts in Africa and provide contacts for data and interpretation. Such collaboration will open doors for US researchers to learn of problems that are uniquely African, such as how best to optimize limited resources to contain the spread of a disease in specific African populations.
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